(NEW YORK) -- The same bacterium responsible for most stomach ulcers may play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes among overweight and obese adults, New York University researchers report Wednesday.
And in the same way that antibiotics eradicate the bacterium and heal ulcers, antibiotics might eventually prove useful in diabetes prevention, they suggest in an article appearing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Non-diabetic adults infected with Helicobacter pylori, whether or not they had ulcer symptoms, tended to have higher blood sugar than adults without H. pylori, according to the study co-authored by Yu Chen, an associate professor of environmental medicine at NYU, and Dr. Martin J. Blaser, chairman of NYU’s department of medicine.
Chen and Blaser assessed blood sugar levels using measurements of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c or A1c), a marker of excess glucose in the bloodstream that in recent years has become a key tool for diagnosing and monitoring diabetes.
H. pylori is a complicated bacterium. Persistent H. pylori infections beginning in childhood have been linked decades later to ulcers of the stomach and small intestine, and a heightened risk of stomach cancer. Although H. pylori can inflame the stomach, many infected people have no symptoms.
Blaser called H. pylori a complicated and interesting organism that affects children and adults in entirely different ways. In previous work, he and Chen found that H. pylori protects children against asthma and allergy.
“This study provides further evidence of late-in-life cost to having H. pylori,” Blaser said in an interview. The findings also give new support to “the concept of eradicating H. pylori in older people.”
Theoretically, antibiotics that wipe out H. pylori might protect older, overweight men and women from developing diabetes, Blaser and Chen said. However, scientists still need to determine how eliminating H. pylori might affect Type 2 diabetes, and how H. pylori affects sugar breakdown among people of different weights.
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