Helicobacter Pylori Infection May Help Protect Against Multiple Sclerosis in Females

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shutterstock_176963594A new study on the association between Helicobacter pylori and multiple sclerosis (MS) entitled “Helicobacter pylori infection as a protective factor against multiple sclerosis risk in females” was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry by Marzena J. Fabis Pedrini from the Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorders at the QEII Medical Centre in Australia, along with colleagues.

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a gram-negative bacterium that chronically infects more than 50% of the human population. This infection increases the probability of gastric diseases including peptic ulcers and gastric cancer. H. pylori infection has been associated with the development and progression of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, Guillain-Barré syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and ischemic stroke, mainly due to the induction of systemic inflammation, molecular mimicry, and interference with the absorption of drugs. Studies have shown a relationship between H. pylori and multiple sclerosis (MS), but with conflicting findings.

In this study, the research team investigated the impact of H. pylori infection in multiple sclerosis (MS). The researchers included in the study 550 patients with MS and 299 controls with similar age and gender. They evaluated the clinical and demographic parameters of the individuals and used an enzyme immunoassay to detect the presence of specific IgG antibodies against H. pylori in the serum sample of patients with MS and controls.

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They found that patients with MS had lower H. pylori seropositivity (16%) than controls (21%); this decrease was observed in females while this was not seen in males. Notably, H. pylori seropositive females showed lower disability score when compared with seronegative females, while for males the authors observed the opposite, when the age at onset, year of birth and disease duration was similar. In addition, there was no significant correlation between H. pylori seropositivity and relapse rate.

The research team concluded that these findings suggest a protective role of H. pylori in the MS development. Notably, the data is supported by the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory which states that infections during childhood are crucial to priming the immune system and therefore preventing allergic and autoimmune conditions during adulthood.

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Ana holds her PhD in Biochemistry from the Faculty of Science and Technology from Lisbon (UNL). She has worked in the T-cell differentiation and Tumor targeting Lab at Instituto de Medicina Molecular, headed by Prof. Bruno Silva-Santos, and has served as a scientific reviewer for the peer-reviewed journal Infection & Immunity.
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