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March 13, 1987

Prevention of Travelers' Diarrhea by the Tablet Formulation of Bismuth Subsalicylate

JAMA. 1987;257(10):1347-1350. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390100085031

Within 48 hours of arrival in Mexico, 182 US students participated in a study to compare the efficacy of two dosages of bismuth subsalicylate (262 mg per tablet) as a prophylactic agent against diarrhea. The students were randomly assigned to receive two tablets (high dose) or one tablet (low dose) of bismuth subsalicylate four times daily or a placebo four times daily during a three-week period. Among these completing the trial, diarrhea (four or more unformed stools in 24 hours or three in eight hours, plus one other symptom) occurred in seven (14%) of 51 receiving the high-dose regimen compared with 15 (24%) of 63 receiving the low-dose regimen and 23 (40%) of 58 in the placebo group. Protection rates were 65% for high-dose and 40% for low-dose bismuth subsalicylate. Diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli was found in one student receiving the high-dose regimen, in no students receiving the low-dose regimen, and in seven placebo-treated subjects. Bismuth subsalicylate was well tolerated; the most common side effects were blackening of tongues and stools. Bismuth subsalicylate use in both dosages was associated with tinnitus at a low, clinically insignificant frequency of 1.2 days per 100 days of treatment. The dosage of two tablets of bismuth subsalicylate four times daily (2.1 g/d) appears to be a safe and effective means of reducing the occurrence of travelers' diarrhea among persons at risk for periods up to three weeks.

(JAMA 1987;257:1347-1350)