Background: Changes in gut bacteria play a role in type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) and hepatic steatosis. There is a lack of studies evaluating the frequency and risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in patients tested for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Aim: To evaluate the frequency of NAFLD and associated risk factors in patients tested for SIBO.

Methods: In this case-control study, 372 eligible patients submitted to glucose hydrogen/methane breath test for SIBO who also had an abdominal imaging study were included. Patients were divided into SIBO-positive and SIBO-negative groups. Clinical, demographic and laboratory variables were evaluated in addition to the presence of NAFLD on abdominal imaging.

Results: Of the 372 eligible patients, 141 (37.9%) were tested positive for SIBO (study group) and 231 (62.1%) were negative for it (control group). NAFLD occurred in 45.4% (64/141) of the study group compared to 17.3% (40/231) of the control group (p<0.001). Patients in the study group were found to have higher rates of elevated aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (20.6% vs. 11.3%; p=0.034) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels (56.0% vs. 40.7%; p= 0.039), type 2 diabetes (23.4% vs. 13.9%; p=0.041), hypertension (54.6% vs. 40.3%; p=0.046) and metabolic syndrome (78.0% vs. 60.2%; p=0.020). In the multivariate analysis, SIBO (odds ratio [OR]: 1.95; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.14-3.31; p=0.014), type 2 DM (OR: 3.04; 95%CI: 1.57-5.90; p=0.001) and obesity (OR: 3.58; 95%CI: 1.70-7.54; p=0.001) remained associated with NAFLD.
Conclusion: Patients with SIBO have an increased risk for hepatic steatosis and may benefit from aggressive control of the risk factors for NAFLD including metabolic syndrome.

Abbreviations: ALT: alanine aminotransferase; AST: aspartate aminotransferase; BMI: body mass index; CTE: computed tomography enterography; DM: diabetes mellitus; ETOH: ethanol; IL: interleukin; LPS: lipopolysaccharide; NAFLD: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; NASH: non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; PPI: proton pump inhibitor; SIBO: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; TLR-4: toll-like receptor 4; TMAO: trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO); TNF-α: tumor necrosis factor alpha.


metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth