BACKGROUND: Increasing evidence supports the role of the gut microbiota in the aetiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a highly effective treatment against recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection in randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and may be beneficial in ulcerative colitis. However, its efficacy in IBS is uncertain.
AIM: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine this issue.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, EMBASE Classic, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and clinicaltrials.gov through to March 2019. RCTs recruiting adults with IBS, which compared FMT with placebo, were eligible. Dichotomous symptom data were pooled to obtain a relative risk (RR) of remaining symptomatic after therapy, with a 95% CI.
RESULTS: The search strategy identified 322 citations. Five RCTs were eligible for inclusion, containing 267 patients. Overall, 92.2% of included patients had IBS-D or IBS-M, and only 7.8% IBS-C. When data were pooled for all patients, irrespective of stool type, the RR of IBS symptoms not improving was 0.98 (95% CI 0.58-1.66). Placebo capsules administered orally were superior to capsules containing donor stool in two pooled trials (RR = 1.96; 95% CI 1.19-3.20). FMT from donor stool delivered via colonoscopy was superior to autologous stool in two pooled RCTs (RR = 0.63; 95% CI 0.43-0.93). FMT from donor stool via nasojejunal tube showed a trend towards a benefit over autologous stool in one trial (RR = 0.69; 95% CI 0.46-1.02).
CONCLUSIONS: Fresh or frozen donor stool delivered via colonoscopy or nasojejunal tube may be beneficial in IBS. Larger, more rigorously conducted trials of FMT in IBS are needed.