Commensal bacteria inhabiting the human intestine (i.e., intestinal microflora) participate in the development and maintenance of gut sensory and motor functions, including the promotion of intestinal propulsive activity. On the other hand, intestinal motility represents one of the major control systems of gut microflora, through the sweeping of excessive bacteria from the lumen. There is emerging evidence indicating that changes in this bidirectional interplay contribute to the pathogenesis of gut diseases, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and intestinal pseudo-obstruction. Recent interest has also been directed to the potential role of intestinal microflora in the pathogenesis of the irritable bowel syndrome. Although the status of intestinal microflora in the irritable bowel syndrome remains unsettled, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (as detected with breath testing) and increased fermentation of foods with gas production, provide indirect evidence that microflora may contribute to symptom generation in irritable bowel syndrome. The potential benefit of antibiotic and probiotic therapy is currently under investigation and opens new perspectives in irritable bowel syndrome treatment.
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