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Complex germ: image correction for Helicobacter pylori

  Photo: APA (Fohringer) © Photo: APA (Fohringer)

On a global basis, half of all people may be infected with Helicobacter pylori. However, this often occurs without symptoms. In the meantime, numerous studies indicate that the presence or absence of certain bacteria can massively impact a person’s immune system. “For example, we know that in societies where the prevalence of Helicobacter is high, children suffer less frequently from asthma“, explained Sabine Kienesberger-Feist of the Institute for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz.  

Kienesberger-Feist and her colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine examined the effects of Helicobacter infections in the stomach, intestines and lungs over a period of six months. They reported their findings in the latest issue of the scientific journal "Cell Reports."

"Our investigations using mouse models showed that an infection with Helicobacter led to an increase of certain T-cells in the lungs. These cells play an important role in the immune system”, said Kienesberger-Feist. They were particularly surprised at the “early and partly contradictory effects on the lungs.” An enhanced immune reaction in the stomach was first observed later on, according to the first authors of the latest publication. She conducted a large part of her investigations during her postdoc program at the New York University School of Medicine. At the University of Graz she is a member of the working group led by Ellen Zechner.

The team also observed changes in the composition of the intestinal flora. In turn, this can lead to stimulating the immune system. In addition, they found shifts in the hormonal balance. The ideal thing would be to make use of the positive aspects of bacteria without subjecting people to their negative effects. However, a great deal of additional research is necessary to determine the complex interaction of the bacteria.

Service: Kienesberger S., Cox L.M., Livanos A, Martin J. Blaser et al.: "Gastric Helicobacter pylori Infection Affects Local and Distant Microbial Populations and Host Responses", Cell Reports, February 16, 2016.

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