Helicobacter pylori: "bad" or "good" stomach bacteria?

Helicobacter pylori:

Positive effects of Helicobacter pylori infection were found
So far, the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori has mainly been associated with the development of diseases such as gastritis, gastric ulcers or gastric cancer, which is why a colonization with the bacterium is generally rated negatively by doctors. But scientists from the Karl-Franzens-University Graz, the Medical University of Graz and the New York University School of Medicine have found in a recent study that Helicobacter pylori apparently also has positive effects in the human organism.

"The Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which can colonize the stomach, has a bad reputation," according to a message from the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz. It is said to be responsible for the development of gastritis, gastric ulcers and subsequently even for cancer. However, the current studies by the scientists from Graz and New York show that the bacterium has no negative effects. The researchers have published their surprising results in the renowned journal "Cell Reports".

The complex interaction of bacteria has hardly been investigated
The research team around Dr. In the current study, Sabine Kienesberger from the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz examined the effects of Helicobacter infection in the stomach, intestines and lungs over a period of six months. In the mouse model, the scientists observed the consequences of colonization with the bacterium. So far, little research has been carried out into which bacteria are “good” and which are “bad”, the scientists justify their investigation. Basically, this is difficult to distinguish because there is little information about the complex interplay of the bacteria, the mass of which makes up around two kilograms of our body weight. This also applies to the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori.

Little is known about the positive effects of Helicobacter pylori
Many negative effects of Helicobacter pylori infection are described in detail in the specialist literature, but possible positive effects have also been found. "For example, we know that in societies where Helicobacter is more common, children are less likely to develop asthma," reports the first author of the current study, Dr. Sabine Kienesberger. In their investigation, the scientists therefore also looked at possible positive effects of Helicobacter infection.

Stimulation of the immune system
The research team discovered several interesting relationships that were previously unknown. So Dr. Kienesberger and colleagues find that Helicobacter infection leads to an accumulation of certain T cells in the lungs. "These cells play an important role in the immune system," emphasizes the first author of the study. The scientists were also able to observe changes in the composition of the intestinal flora. "These in turn can stimulate the immune system," said the Institute for Molecular Biosciences.

Shifts in the hormonal balance
Furthermore, according to the researchers, there have been shifts in the hormone balance as a result of the Helicobacter infection. For example, the concentration of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin has increased. This stimulates the appetite in overproduction. "Ghrelin is known to also have an impact on the immune system," said Dr. Kienesberger continues. According to the scientists, Helicobacter infection and the corresponding effects in the mouse model have been observed as a dynamic process over a longer period of time, which is a special feature of the current study. “The early and sometimes contradicting effects on the lungs were surprising, although an increasing immune response in the stomach could only be observed at later times,” emphasizes Dr. Kienesberger. The study laid a solid basis for targeted research into the complex interaction of Helicobacter, microbiome and immune system. (fp)

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