Stomach Bugs and Diabetes: Astounding relationship or just confounding?

10-11-2012

The discovery that stomach ulcers were actually caused not by diet and or stress but by bacteria led to a paradigm shift in the evaluation and treatment of ulcers and a Nobel prize to the researchers Marshall and Warren. H.pylori not only causes inflammation that may lead to eventual stomach ulceration but the inflammation can also lead to stomach carcinomas and lymphomas.

H.pylori is usually acquired in childhood and in developing countries can be found in more than 80% of the population over 20. This bacteria usually causes complaints of nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and other very common gastro-intestinal complaints.

In this issue of the monthly "Diabetes Care", a group of Latinos from Sacramento CA aged over 60 with no known Diabetes were followed for a decade. At the onset of the study all participants were also checked for various viral diseases (such as Herpes and Varicella) as well as blood markers for infection such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP). During the follow up, 144 patients developed Diabetes. Diabetes was found to be twice as likely to develop in patients that were positive for H.pylori. This relationship that was not found with any other virus or blood marker.

The association between the development of Diabetes and H.pylori has been previously reported but the studies all were small and had limitations. What stands out in this study is that more than 90% of the population studied were positive for H.pylori so there were very few individuals that were negative. This made it difficult to compare the negative for H.pylori group with the positive group.

Another drawback for this study was the testing method. There are 2 major ways to test for H. pylori - Fidelis utilizes the Exalenz BreathID® test which is the most precise method of testing and distinguishes between current and previous infections. In this study serology (blood markers) were used which are unable to distinguish between previous and current infection and so we don't know which of the positive patients actually had an active infection with H.pylori.

It is too early to advocate treatment of H.pylori to reduce the incidence of Diabetes but this relationship is certainly very interesting and we are waiting for a future major study that will guide the way to the best treatment options for patients.

In the mean time if you are suffering from any gastro-intestinal complaints, it might be time to discuss this with your physician. The test can be performed using the BreathID® technology, an advanced new H.Pylori diagnostics test, right in your doctor’s office, with immediate results. It is simple, non-invasive and highly accurate.