Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 02:33 GMT


Stomach bug link to bowel problem

Bacterial gastroenteritis could cause long-term problems

People who have a bout of bacterial gastroenteritis may be up to 10 times more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, according to research.

Previous research has suggested a link between the two conditions, but they have never compared their studies against a control group.

This means they could not calculate how great the risk was.

Now Spanish researchers have compared 318 people with gastroenteritis with more than 500,000 members of the public.

After a year, they found that 0.3% of the public developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), compared with 4.4% of the people who had had bacterial gastroenteritis.

Food poisoning

They calculated that the risk is up to 10 times greater for people who have had bacterial gastroenteritis, caused by infections such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say: "We conclude that bacterial gastroenteritis is a major independent risk factor for irritable bowel syndrome."

IBS is fairly common and is not life-threatening. However, it can cause discomfort and, in people who suffer badly from it, it can be disabling.

It leads to crampy pain, gassiness, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.

There is no cure, but doctors suggest diet changes and stress management can help.

Risk surprise

Dr Luis Garcia Rodriguez, one of the Spanish doctors, told BBC News Online he had not expected such findings.

"We expected to see a greater risk, but we were surprised at how great the risk was," he said.

He thinks the link is due to either the gastroenteritis not being totally cured or because the bacteria has altered the body's balance.

If the former is the case, it could mean that stronger antibiotics are needed to treat the gastroenteritis, said Dr Garcia Rodriguez.

The research paper is part of a larger study of the effect of antacid drugs on bacterial gastroenteritis.

Dr Garcia Rodriguez hopes the research will be taken on and more studies conducted to find out what causes the link.

But he stressed that, despite the link, only about one in 20 people who have gastroenteritis are likely to develop IBS.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

04 Dec 98 | Health
Computer game cure for stress

26 Nov 98 | Health
Asthma and bowel disease could have the same cause

09 Oct 98 | Health
Bowel disorder breakthrough

Internet Links

IBS resource center

British Medical Journal


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99