The stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori, normally considered "bad" gut bacteria, may help control diabetes, Science Daily reports.
The bacterium is often related to gastric cancer, peptic ulcers and gastritis. "H. pylori is the dominant member of the gastric microbiota and infects about half of the world population. While H. pylori infection can be associated with severe disease, it helps control chronic inflammatory, allergic or autoimmune dieases," said Josep Bassaganya-Riera, director of the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory and the Center for Modeling Immunity to Enteric Pathogens (MIEP) at Virginia Tech. "We demonstrated for the first time that gastric colonization with H. pylori exerts beneficial effects in mouse models of obesity and diabetes."
H. pylori is known to infect half of the world's population, although most do not develop symptoms. The bacterium's number are dropping in developed nations, in line with soaring diabetes rates. Our reliance (and overuse) of antibiotics in health and livestock feed may be destroying H. pylori and other "good" bacteria, and may explain the rise in obesity, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.
The study used mice infected with two forms of H. pylori, as well as unaffected mice. Those affected with the less virulent strain of bacteria showed less insulin resistance than the other two groups. The researchers say that whether the bacteria is harmful or helpful is dependent on H. pylori's genetic makeup's interaction with the host's immune response.
"The role of H. pylori as a pathogen does not provide an explanation as to why it has colonized the stomach of humans thousands of years. Our new findings suggest that H. pylori may provide important metabolic traits required to ameliorate diabetes that humans have no evolved on their own," said Bassaganya-Riera.