Researchers have found that a stomach bacterium which is believed to cause ulcers and gastric cancer may also help to balance the stomach's ecosystem and control body weight and glucose tolerance.
Usually the villain in studies of gastric cancer and peptic ulcers, Helicobacter pylori infects about half the world's population, although most infected individuals do not get sick.
The bacterium's dwindling numbers coincide with the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in developed countries, according to immunologists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute of Virginia Tech.
"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 diseases," said Josep Bassaganya-Riera, director of the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory and the Centre for Modelling 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," said the scientist.
Mice infected with H.pylorishowed showed less insulin resistance than uninfected mice or other mice infected with a more virulent strain of H.pylori, according to the study, which was recently published in PLOS One.
This suggests that the overuse of antibiotics for everything from misdiagnosed infections in humans to supplementary livestock feed may destroy beneficial bacteria and contribute directly to diseases such as obesity, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma, reports Science Daily.