Recent investigations in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) undergoing a breath test (BT) with lactulose, have shown inconclusive results on a possible association between IBS and a small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), as well as on the effective prevalence of SIBO in IBS patients, because of different geographic areas involved and different criteria adopted for the BT positivity. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of SIBO among IBS patients by means a lactulose BT. Between January 2005 and December 2006, all the patients who were sent to our Gastroenterology Unit by general practitioners (GPs) for "functional" gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, underwent a lactulose BT for diagnosis of SIBO. The test was considered positive if the hydrogen concentrations in the expired air increased more than 20 ppm over basal values within 90 minutes. A total of 127 patients have been selected, 28 males and 99 females, aged between 17 and 76 (mean age: 41.4 years), with an IBS diagnosis based on the Roma II criteria. Fifty-five patients (43%) resulted positive to the lactulose BT. No significant difference was observed between IBS patients with (SIBO+) and without (SIBO-) an intestinal bacteria contamination. In conclusion, our results indicate that SIBO is relatively frequent in IBS patients and that execution of a lactulose BT should be encouraged in all these patients, being the only way to make correct diagnosis of SIBO and establish a valid therapeutic treatment.