Epidemiology of Small Bowel Bacterial Overgrowth and Rice Carbohydrate Malabsorption in Burmese (Myanmar) Village Children

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  • Clinical Research Division, Department of Medical Research, Ministry of Health, Gastrointestinal Unit, School of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)
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Breath hydrogen tests were performed after a rice meal (3 g of cooked rice/kg of body weight, equivalent to 1 g of carbohydrate/kg of body weight) on 256 village children (age range 1–59 months) who were known hydrogen (H2) producers. Anthropometric measurements were made every three months and growth rates were calculated. A breath H2 excretion pattern that suggested small bowel bacterial overgrowth (SBBO), which was recognized as a transient maximum level of 10 ppm or more at 20-, 40-, or 60-min breath samples following the rice meal, was present in 53 (20.7%) children, and was more frequent in children 36–47 and 48–59 months old. This breath H2 excretion pattern was detected in 48 (33.3%) of 144 children who were rice malabsorbers (> 10 ppm H2 above baseline values in one of the breath samples taken between 90 and 240 min), and in only five (4.5%) of 112 rice absorbers. Children who had SBBO had a high relative risk (10.7) of being rice malabsorbers. Rice malabsorbers have a high relative risk (59.7) of having faltered growth, accompanied by a large etiologic fraction (94%). This same risk (6.68) and an etiologic fraction of 62% exist in children with untreated SBBO. These findings emphasize the need for interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of SBBO or similar conditions as detected by the breath H2 excretion pattern to prevent rice malabsorption and growth faltering.