Professor Anne Muller and colleagues from the University of Zurich studied the effect of bacterial infection on asthma-like symptoms in mice.
They found that Helicobacter pylori infection protected mice from hallmarks of allergen-induced asthma, such as airway hyper-responsiveness and tissue inflammation.
Professor Muller told GP the group was now looking to build on these findings to develop preventive therapies.
‘We are working on a vaccination-type of approach with the goal of actively 'tolerising' the host to the bacteria – to make the immune system tolerant of H pylori, and possibly cross-tolerant of other antigens, including allergens,’ she said.
‘This approach would most certainly require a first shot followed by multiple boosts using whole cell [fragments] or subunit 'vaccine', rather than live bacteria,’ she said.
Professor Muller said her research also suggested that any unnecessary use of antibiotics during childhood should be avoided.
This should be done, she said ‘to preserve indigenous microbiota that may turn out to be beneficial not only in the context of allergies, but also of other chronic inflammatory or autoimmune conditions’.
A separate study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and published in the same journal showed that the immune molecule gamma-interferon is also linked to the development of asthma.
The Stanford team again used mice to examine the effect of asthma-like symptoms. They believe their findings could lead to the development of new treatments for the disease.