A University of Texas Health Science Center study has found that children without previous iron deficiencies or anemia who remained infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) had significantly lower levels of iron compared to children who had the infection eradicated.
"What we learned in this study is not only does H. pylori cause iron deficiency anemia and iron-deficiency, but that even among children who do not have these conditions, their levels of iron are lower than otherwise healthy children," said Victor Cardenas, lead investigator of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus, part of UTHealth.
Researchers investigated the link between H. pylori infection and iron levels in non-iron-deficient preschool and school age children in El Paso and found the infection causes a decrease in the levels of iron in children who do not have anemia or an iron deficiency.
The bacterium H. pylori infects the lining of the stomach resulting in chronic swelling of tissue, a condition known as gastritis.
"Iron is an essential nutrient which supports several body functions and exists in small amounts in the body, but it is also required by bacteria such as H. pylori. The infection decreases the body's natural progression of making iron," said Cardenas.
Over time markers of iron stored in the body increased in children no longer infected. However, children who remained infected lagged in levels of one marker, serum ferritin, at their six month follow-up. The protein serum ferritin measures the amount of iron stored in your body, according to the National Institute of Health.
"Previous research has shown that iron levels correlate with several body functions including brain activity and have well documented long-term health consequences such as increased morbidity and mortality and loss of productivity," said Cardenas.
"There is a need to research the long-term consequences of asymptomatic H. pylori infections in those without an iron deficiency because the effect we found could be present among those with normal iron levels," added Cardenas.
The findings have been published in Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.