While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the symptoms suffered by people enduring this disorder may be a hilarious subject for toilet room humor, the sufferers actually don't find anything vaguely amusing related to this health condition.
However, now there seems to be some good news for people suffering from this disorder. In fact, scientists are now of the belief that they possess a likely cure that would help to restore the smile on the faces of people putting up with at least one form of irritable bowel syndrome - the type that is distinguished by recurring spells of diarrhea in addition to other symptoms that are characteristic of this disorder, for instance, pain in the abdominal region, bloating and, of course, flatulence, which is dreaded in social gatherings.
Usually, physicians classify patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome as people who are primarily ill with constipation, diarrhea or suffer from an irregular pattern of diarrhea and constipation. In general, this medical condition affects roughly 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the people in Canada, the United States as well as other advanced nations and costs the nations billions of dollars every year.
During the course of two researches that engaged over 1,200 subjects having diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) scientists detected that a two-week regimen of antibiotic rifaximin facilitated in providing relief from the symptoms not only during the course of the therapy, but also for several weeks after the patients had stopped taking the medication.
According to the authors whose research findings were published in the recent edition of New England Journal of Medicine, some of the patients who participated in the research were assigned to receive the drug at random said that they experienced less abdominal pain and bloating, while their stool consistency got better for around 10 weeks. The scientists found that of the total participants, approximately 40 per cent or more were administered the rifaximin pill thrice daily and they reported considerably reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in comparison to the subjects who were given placebo or dummy pills. In addition, the authors of the research pointed out that the success of this treatment identifies bacteria as the probable cause of IBS characterized by recurrent diarrhea.
Speaking from Los Angles, Dr. Mark Pimentel, the principal investigator who is also the director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, mentioned that the research is primarily the end of 10 years of labor considering the fact that this is the concluding evidence that an antibiotic approach is actually effective in curing irritable bowel syndrome.
A good number of researchers are of the view that irritable bowel syndrome takes place as bacterial that generally set up colonies in the colon or the large intestine travel to the small intestine, which absorbs the nutrients from the ingested food. According to Dr. Pimentel, originally very few or no bacteria are present in the small intestine and in such cases, administration of rifaximin pills helps to eliminate the overgrowth of bacteria.
Dr. Pimentel further stated that this particular antibiotic possessed all the ideal attributes, for instance, it does not infiltrate into the bloodstream and, at the same time, it remains only inside the gut. In addition, this antibiotic (rifaximin) does not eliminate or harm the good bacteria of the stool since the stool actually does not change. Precisely speaking, this antibiotic typically works in the small bowel wherein the anomalous colonies of bacteria are suspected as the main reason behind the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome in this particular instance.
Born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and educated in Winnipeg, Dr. Pimentel emphasized that the other significant attribute of the drug is that it does not seem to cause any resilience to bacteria, which is common with several antibiotics that are soaked up by the bloodstream and then by the other organs and tissues of the body. Observing that the medicine has already been approved for treating travelers' diarrhea as well as for curing a particular liver ailment, he further said that this makes the antibiotic just the right medication for this specific indication.
The team of scientists comprised researchers from different centers across the United States. They observed that presently there are only a few healing options available for irritable bowel syndrome. In such a situation, generally doctors prescribe changes in diet as well as increased intake of fibrous foods, but they too do not seem to work well for several patients. The same thing is applicable for drug therapies like antidepressants or medicines that are designed to decelerate or accelerate the digestive process.
Dr. Pimentel claimed that patients who have been treated with this particular antibiotic not only feel better during the course of the treatment, but also when they have stopped taking the medicine. He further claims that this was a proof of the fact that they have found a medicine that has actually hit the factor responsible for the ailment - irritable bowel syndrome.
In addition to examining the effects of the drug rifaximin on diarrhea-dominated patients, scientists are now also studying the medication in patients whose irritable bowel syndrome is said to be constipation-predominated and, according to principal investigator Dr. Pimentel, the results of the research are expected to be made public in a year's time.
Meanwhile, a gastroenterologist at the Toronto-based Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Dr. Lawrence Cohen pointed out that the perception that overgrowth of bacterial colonies are responsible for the ailment irritable bowel syndrome is not novel, but a contentious issue. According to Dr. Cohen, who was not a part of the research, two studies undertaken in recent times had tested dissimilar antibiotics on patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, but in neither case the patients benefitted from the treatment.
Dr. Cohen is of the view that rifaximin may possess the potential to cure IBS, though it is difficult to ascertain to which extent the medication is helpful since the dissimilarity in the percentage of patients claiming to have got relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome belonging to the treated group of the study in opposition to the group that was given placebo or dummy drug was not found to be notable enough.
Although Dr. Cohen admitted that the results were significant from the statistical point of view, he seemed to be sceptical about the significance of the findings as far as the clinical aspect is concerned.
Dr. Cohen recommended that it is necessary to rule out the other causes of the symptoms that were similar to those of the diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome, such as lactose intolerance, celiac disease, underlying cancer or inflammatory bowel ailments, before the physicians deemed the medication to be a potential treatment for IBS. Hence, the story is not very clear-cut, he opined.
Nevertheless, Dr. Cohen emphasized that the findings of the research conducted by the team led by Dr. Pimentel ought not to be rejected totally. According to Dr. Cohen, he is very much precautious regarding the study since it was planned as well as financed by Salix Pharmaceuticals Inc., the company that manufactured the drug rifaximin used by the researchers to treat the subjects of the study. In fact, the study was designed and financed by the makers of rifaximin and was disclosed by the researchers themselves.
It may be mentioned here that while Dr. Pimentel has found out the use and effectiveness of rifaximin to treat irritable bowel syndrome, the proprietary or patent rights of this discovery is being held by Cedars-Sinai, which has licensed these rights to Salix Pharmaceuticals Inc.