A new study links a stomach microbe to asthma prevention

NEW YORK, April 23, 2007 -- The stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach cancer and peptic ulcers, may not be all bad. According to a new study, it may help protect kids from asthma.

The study, based on an analysis of a health survey of 7,663 adults, showed that a virulent strain of H. pylori was especially associated with being asthma-free before the age of 15. People who carry the strain were 40 percent less likely to have had asthma at an early age than those who didnt carry the strain. The study also found that the microbe was associated with protection against ragweed and other allergies due to pollens and molds particularly among younger adults.

The study is published in the April 23, 2007, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Ultimately, the potentially protective properties of Helicobacter are consistent with one another," explains Martin J. Blaser, M.D., the Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine, Chairman of the Department of Medicine, and Professor of Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, who has been studying H. pylori for more than 20 years.

"These properties point toward a much more complex view of the organismnot just as ulcer-pathogen or cancer-pathogen, but as an organism that has its costs and benefits to us," says Dr. Blaser. "The relative costs and benefits clearly differ among individuals."

Dr. Blaser performed the study with Yu Chen, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, a new faculty member with expertise in epidemiology.

H. pylori lives in the mucous layer lining the stomach where it persists for decades. It is acquired usually before the age of 10, and is transmitted mainly in families. Dr. Blasers previous studies have confirmed the bacteriums link to stomach cancer and elucidated genes associated with its virulence, particularly a gene ca

Contact: Jennifer Berman
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine

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