Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that naturally exists in our stomachs, is on the decline in people, but now asthma is on the rise—are they related? Dr. Martin Blaser M.D., chairman of medicine and microbiology professor at New York University, thinks so. Via NPR:
Several years ago, researchers proposed the provocative idea that bacteria living in the human stomach could be responsible for the development of some stomach ulcers — and the doctors found that treating those bacteria, H. pylori, with antibiotics could reduce ulcer risk. New research suggests, however, that those bacteria may not be all bad — they could help prevent the development of childhood asthma.Here’s some of the abstract to Dr. Blaser’s study from The Journal of Infectious Disease. Take a look:
Writing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the scientists report that children between the ages of 3 and 13 are nearly 59 percent less likely to have asthma if they have the bacterium in their gut. The children were also 40 percent less likely to have hay fever and associated allergies such as eczema and rash.
The cause for the link isn't exactly clear, though the researchers believe that people with the bacteria have more immune cells called regulatory T cells. They say the surplus cells prevent the immune system from overreacting to allergens, which can trigger asthma and allergies like hay fever.
Methods: We conducted cross-sectional analyses, using data from 7412 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2000, to assess the association between H. pylori and childhood asthma.Perhaps all these antibiotics we’re shoveling down our throats are REALLY working against us. Again, Dr. Blaser thinks this might be the case. For more, check out the audio to the NPR report: Stomach Bacteria Could Prevent Asthma.
Conclusions: This study is the first to report an inverse association between H. pylori seropositivity and asthma in children. The findings indicate new directions for research and asthma prevention.