H pylori might protect children from asthma

Helicobacter pylori, a cause of stomach cancer and peptic ulcers, might help protect children from developing asthma, say US researchers.

Antibiotics taken as a child may increase risk of asthma
Antibiotics taken as a child may increase risk of asthma

The findings suggest that giving antibiotics to children early in life might make them more susceptible to asthma by reducing levels of H pylori in the body.

Previous research has suggested that the cagA strain of H pylori can protect against gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and could, therefore, protect against GORD-related asthma.

For the latest study, the link between H pylori and asthma was assessed in 7,663 adult asthmatics.

Each participant answered a questionnaire on medical history of asthma and allergy symptoms.

They were then tested for antibodies for H pylori and the cagA protein in their blood.

A sub-group of 2,385 participants also underwent skin testing for six asthma allergens, including ragweed and rye grass. The results were correlated with participants' H pylori status.

Those with the cagA strain of H pylori were found to be 20 per cent less likely to have ever had asthma compared with participants without H pylori.

This association seemed dependant on age. Those with the virulent cagA strain were 40 per cent less likely to have had asthma before the age of 15.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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