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Anti-Asthma Bug

May 17, 2007

A common stomach bug may prevent asthma.


A lung-stomach connection. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

People with a common stomach infection called Helicobacter pylori are 40 percent less likely to get childhood asthma and allergies. This according to microbiologist Martin Blaser, chair of the New York University Department of Medicine. Blaser says that chronic Helicobacter infections were almost universal before the age of antibiotics.

MARTIN BLASER (New York University):
So, as a result, we now have people – I think for the first time in human history – adults, who either have the organism or don’t, and so we can measure the consequences.

The bug has already been shown to have both costs and benefits to the gastrointestinal tract. As for the asthma connection, Blaser suspects the infection keeps the immune system occupied, reducing the likelihood that it will trigger an asthma attack. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.