Rifaximin is beneficial in the treatment of minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE). Kang et al. (Clin Transl Gastroenterol 7: e187; doi:10.1038/ctg.2016.44) investigated the effects of rifaximin in a mouse model of MHE-associated microbiota without concomitant liver disease. In addition to some impact on the composition of microbiota, rifaximin altered bacterial functions, ameliorated local and systemic inflammation, and reduced enterocyte glutaminase activity. We discuss these effects as well as the interpretation of the permeability studies, given the potential interaction of dysbiosis with dysfunctional intestinal barrier, leading to systemic inflammation and increased uptake of bacterial metabolites that contribute to MHE in the presence of hepatic dysfunction.
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