Stomach bug protects kids from asthma, says study

July 15th, 2008 - 2:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, July 15 (IANS) Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and stomach cancers, but it also has its good side. It protects children from asthma, says a new study. Children between the ages of 3 and 13 are nearly 59 percent less likely to have asthma if they carry the bug, according to the study by New York University researchers.

H. pylori, once nearly universal in humans, has been slowly disappearing from developed countries due to increased antibiotic use and cleaner water and homes.

“Our findings suggest that absence of H. pylori may be one explanation for the increased risk of childhood asthma,” said Yu Chen, co-author of the study.

The rise in asthma over the past decades, said Martin J. Blaser, also a co-author, could stem from the fact that a stomach harbouring H. pylori has a different immunological status from one lacking the bug.

H. pylori carriers in teens and children were also 40 percent less likely to have hay fever and associated allergies such as eczema or rash.

These results, following similar patterns in adults published by Chen and colleagues last year, are based on an analysis of data gathered from 7,412 participants in the fourth US National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted from 1999 to 2000.

The survey data showed that only 5.4 percent of children born in the 1990s were positive for H. pylori, and that 11.3 percent of the participants under 10 had received an antibiotic in the month prior to the survey.

The study found that if a child does not encounter H. pylori early on, the immune system may not learn how to regulate a response to allergens. Therefore, the child may be more likely to mount the kinds of inflammatory responses that trigger asthma.

The findings of the study have appeared in the online issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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