HealthDay News — Women who harbor the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
Allan Kermode, MD, of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues based their findings on blood samples from 550 people with MS and 299 healthy individuals of the same age. All were white and lived in Western Australia.
The researchers found that among women with MS, 14% had evidence of past infection with H. pylori. But 22% of healthy women in the study had evidence of a previous H. pylori infection. What’s more, among the women with multiple sclerosis, those with a past H. pylori infection tended to have less-severe MS symptoms. There were no such patterns among men.
Kermode told HealthDay that his study supports the theory that certain infections early in life might curb the risk of MS later on — which means the increasingly hygienic surroundings in developed countries could have a downside. “In the last 100 years, the prevalence of MS has increased markedly, and the majority of this increase has occurred in women,” Kermode said. “The fact that over the same period, prevalence of helicobacter in western countries has declined markedly is a tantalizing observation.” Much more research is needed to understand its importance, Kermode added.