Background : Butyrate exerts anti-inflammatory effects in experimental colitis and on Crohn's disease lamina propria mononuclear cells in vitro.

Aim : To explore the efficacy and safety of oral butyrate in Crohn's disease.

Methods : Thirteen patients with mild–moderate ileocolonic Crohn's disease received 4 g/day butyrate as enteric-coated tablets for 8 weeks. Full colonoscopy and ileoscopy were performed before and after treatment. Endoscopical and histological score, laboratory data, Crohn's disease activity index and mucosal interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-12, interferon-γ, tumour necrosis factor-α and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) were assessed before and after treatment.

Results : One patient withdrew from the study, and three patients did not experience clinical improvement. Among the nine patients (69%) who responded to treatment, seven (53%) achieved remission and two had a partial response. Endoscopical and histological score significantly improved after treatment at ileocaecal level (P < 0.05). Leucocyte blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and mucosal levels of NF-κB and IL-1β significantly decreased after treatment (P < 0.05).

Conclusions : Oral butyrate is safe and well tolerated, and may be effective in inducing clinical improvement/remission in Crohn's disease. These data indicate the need for a large investigation to extend the present findings, and suggest that butyrate may exert its action through downregulation of NF-κB and IL-1β.