Researchers have found that a bacteria found in the stomach, that can cause cancer and peptic ulcers, may have a role in protecting children from asthma.
According to researchers at New York University School of Medicine, people who had been infected with Helicobacter pylori were 21 percent less likely to get infected with asthma and 23 percent less likely to carry any allergies than other people.
The researchers studied data obtained from over 8,000 adults and found that of those infected by the bacteria before age 15, the chances of getting asthma was reduced by as much as 37 percent and this group were also 45 percent less likely to carry any allergies.
Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology at NYU, says that he first considered this link when it was found that Helicobacter pylori had an inverse relationship with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
That finding says Dr. Blaser prompted the idea that Helicobacter might be protective; although it is bad for the stomach, it is good for the esophagus.
GERD has been often linked with asthma.
Blaser and colleague Yu Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, studied data of around 7,663 adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that those who had any history with asthma had an "inverse association with CAG positive helicobacter".
Dr Blaser says no one would have predicted that the presence or absence of bacteria in your stomach is associated with a sensitivity to pollens and molds.
Blaser says more research is needed to confirm the association and then to work out how the knowledge can be used.
He says at present most doctors believe all H. pylori infections need to be treated, even those not causing ulcer symptoms, but Helicobacter is part of the natural human body and has been living in the human stomach for a very long time.
The study is published in the April 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.