IBS and gut bacteria – What the recent research says


A recent study shows hidden gut bacteria in patients with IBS, especially those with diarrhea, offering a potential opportunity for probiotic treatment.    

There is now evidence that gut bacteria disturbances may play a role in at least some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you suffer from IBS, you may sometimes think that there is a battle inside your body. Well, the latest research study suggests that you might be on to something.

The intestine contains over a billion different microorganisms of all different species called the gut microbiome. In a state of optimal health, all of these bacteria play nicely together. Unfortunately, there are times when the balance of the gut microbiome is disturbed, resulting in unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or an aftereffect of antibiotic treatment could cause these imbalances in the gut microbiome.  

Some new clues suggest that the gut microflora disturbances could contribute to the discomfort we know as IBS. For example, some evidence indicates that IBS develops in some individuals following an acute bacterial infection in the digestive system.

Lab research offers some concrete clues regarding IBS and gut bacteria. Using a procedure in which the tissue of the lining of the intestine is biopsied, investigators have found a hidden bacterial genus called Brachyspira (not usually present in the human intestine) in patients with IBS, especially those with diarrhea. The study is published in the journal Gut.

The team of scientists led by Dr. Karolina S Jabbar from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, observed that mucosal Brachyspira colonization was detected in thirty-one percent of IBS patients versus none in healthy individuals. Other diagnostic methods verified these observations, and researchers further confirmed them in the second cohort of study participants. Unlike most other gut bacteria, researchers observed that Brachyspira was in direct contact with the cells that secrete mucus and cover their surface; it could be a possible way that the bacteria protects itself against antibiotics.  

The study’s authors are hopeful that their research has found a treatable cause of IBS in at least some patients with IBS, especially those with diarrhea. However, more extensive studies are required to establish an association between Brachyspira and IBS symptoms. In that case, other antibiotics and probiotics (friendly bacteria) may become possible treatment in the future.


Jabbar KS, Dolan B, Eklund L, Wising C, Ermund A, Johansson A, Tornblom H, Simren M, Hansson GC. Association between Brachyspira and irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. Gut 2020;0:1–13. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2020-321466.

Image by Alicia Harper from Pixabay 

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