Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bacterium Protects Against Asthma

            New studies from Germany suggest infection from the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, offers protection against allergy-induced asthma. But in industrial societies this bacterium has disappeared from the human body because of the hygiene hypothesis. The hygiene hypothesis says “that modern hygiene measures have led to a lack of exposure to infectious agents, which is important for the normal maturation of the immune system.” Since the bacterium isn’t in the body, allergic diseases are increasing from the air pollution.
            Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, which can cause “wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing.” It’s estimated that “ 6.8 million U.S. children have asthma.” People think asthma contributes to obesity; both are the two leading public health problems in the U.S. Allergy induced asthma occurs when then the body’s immune system falsely identifies a non-threatening substance, such as pollen or pollution, as a harmful intruder into the body. This causes a reaction from the human body in which the antibodies in your immune system attempt to attack the foreign substance. This is seen when the body produces
excessive amounts of mucus discharge, or what most people experience when battling allergies, but it can also lead to the lungs and airways being affected. When these are affected it can trigger asthmatic episodes and this causes allergy-induced asthma.
Helicobacter pylori infect half the world’s population and are resistant to gastric acid. It can cause different stomach problems or diseases but most have no symptoms and therefore killed off with antibiotics as a precaution.  The researchers at the University of Zurich and University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg believe that early infection with the H. pylori bacterium will protect against asthma and other allergic diseases. They have tested their theory on mice and the mice that didn’t have the bacteria had weaker defenses in adulthood. In industrial areas asthma is linked to “the widespread use of antibiotics and the subsequent disappearance of microorganisms” in the human body.
But Helicobacter pylori can be a dangerous bacterium, even though the majority is harmless to the human body. Bacterial, host and environmental factors determines each individual disease risk. Helicobacter pylori usually colonize the body during childhood and can persist lifelong if left untreated and the various stomach diseases will occur during adulthood.  The most important H. pylori associated illnesses are duodenal and gastric ulceration, as well as inflammation of different parts of the stomach or intestines. Picture shown of H. pylori is shown below.

Since in industrial societies we kill the bacterium with antibiotics and then expose ourselves to pollution and smoke we need “to develop preventative and therapeutic strategies” to help combat asthma now that we understand a little bit more about it. 

Gastric Bacterium Helicobacter Pylori Protects Against Asthma
The inflammatory and immune response to Helicobacter pylori infection
Obesity and Asthma: A Dangerous Link in Children: An Integrative Review of the Literature

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