Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth in Children: A State-Of-The-Art Review.

Frontiers in pediatrics. 2019;7:363
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Plain language summary

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when microorganisms overpopulate the small intestine and is characterised by gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and flatulence. This review focuses on paediatric SIBO, known to be increasing, with emphasis on the impact on gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is influenced by several factors including genetics, vaginal delivery, exercise and diet. SIBO in children has been studied in the context of stunting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, and related to use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). This review analysed 149 studies published since 2000 through till May 2019 with the aim of presenting the most up-to-date information. Risk factors included gastric acids and medications which suppress this activity, intestinal motility disturbances leading to bacterial overgrowth, anatomical anomalies where there is an absence of one or more intestinal valves, and poor socioeconomic status and diet. The review concluded that the recommended diagnosis is by methane and hydrogen breath testing and that Gold Standard treatment is antibiotic ‘rifaximin’ at 1,200 mg/d, reduced to 600 mg/d for 1 week in children. Alternative treatments discussed include FODMAP diets and probiotic protocols with best results coming from combining antibiotic and probiotic protocols. It concludes that SIBO in children is heterogenous and poorly understood and that a better diagnostic criteria is necessary in paediatrics.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a heterogenous and poorly understood entity characterised by an excessive growth of select microorganisms within the small intestine. This excessive bacterial biomass, in turn, disrupts host physiology in a myriad of ways, leading to gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms and complications. SIBO is a common cause of non-specific gastrointestinal symptoms in children, such as chronic abdominal pain, abdominal distention, diarrhoea, and flatulence, amongst others. In addition, it has recently been implicated in the pathophysiology of stunting, a disease that affects millions of children worldwide. Risk factors such as acid-suppressive therapies, alterations in gastrointestinal motility and anatomy, as well as impoverished conditions, have been shown to predispose children to SIBO. SIBO can be diagnosed via culture-dependant or culture-independent approaches. SIBO's epidemiology is limited due to the lack of uniformity and consensus of its diagnostic criteria, as well as the paucity of literature available. Antibiotics remain the first-line treatment option for SIBO, although emerging modalities such as probiotics and diet manipulation could also have a role. Herein, we present a state-of-the-art-review which aims to comprehensively outline the most current information on SIBO in children, with particular emphasis on the gut microbiota.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Digestive, absorptive and microbiological
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/SIBO
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Environment
Functional Laboratory Testing : Stool ; Breath
Bioactive Substances : Probiotics ; FODMAP ; Fibre

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review