Oct. 4, 2007 -- A type of bacterium with a bad reputation is getting a bit of an image makeover.
The bacterium in question is called H. pylori. It can cause ulcers and has been linked to stomach cancer, but not in most people with H. pylori.
H. pylori bacteria may engage kids' immune systems, making asthma less likely, note New York University's Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, and Martin Blaser, MD, in a news release.
Further research is needed, but the discovery might one day help scientists harness H. pylori's anti-asthma effects, Blaser suggests.
H. Pylori and Asthma
Chen and Blaser reviewed data that came from a 1999-2000 government health study of some 7,400 U.S. children aged 3-19. The kids got checkups, including a lab test for H. pylori.
Kids and teens with H. pylori bacteria were 35% less likely than those without H. pylori to have ever had asthma.
That association was even stronger for children younger than 5, who were 44% less likely to have had asthma if they tested positive for H. pylori.
Blaser and Chen note that in developed countries, H. pylori has become rarer and asthma has become more common.
But the findings, presented today in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), don't prove that H. pylori prevents asthma.