Bacterial Infection May Increase Diabetes Risk

One commonly recognized risk for developing diabetes is being overweight.  Now, research shows an even higher risk may come from the combination of being overweight and being infected with the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria.

H. pylori is a bacterium that can infect the lining of the stomach. It may cause chronic inflammation of the stomach or gastritis, although many people never have any symptoms to show they are infected.  H. pylori is the most common cause of stomach ulcers around the world.  Most people become infected during childhood by consuming contaminated food or water, or by coming in contact with someone who is infected.  H. pylori infection responds to treatment with antibiotics.

Previous studies have shown conflicting results when considering whether H. pylori infection was connected with the development of type 2 diabetes.   The NYU study is the first to consider whether H. pylori is associated with higher HbA1c levels.  The HbA1c test, which is also known as A1C, shows the average sugar level in the blood over a three-month time span.  This test is recognized as a valuable tool in diagnosing diabetes and in monitoring for successful treatment.

Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Medicine and Martin J. Blaser, MD, the Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine and professor of microbiology, partnered on the study.   Blaser said, "Obesity is an established risk factor for diabetes and it is known that high BMI (Body Mass Index) is associated with elevated HbA1c. Separately, the presence of H. pylori is also associated with elevated HbA1c.  We hypothesized that having both high BMI and the presence of H. pylori would have a synergistic effect, increasing HbA1c even more than the sum of the individual effect of either risk factor alone. We now know that this is true."

The researchers believe the H. pylori bacteria may affect the level of two stomach hormones that help control blood sugar levels.  They believe their study showed that a person with a higher body mass index could reduce the risk of developing diabetes by getting antibiotic treatment to eliminate H. pylori infection if the bacterium is present.  They say further studies are needed to confirm their results, which could have significant implications for clinical and public health.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for



Science Daily. H. Pylori Bacteria Linked to Blood Sugar Control in Adult Type II Diabetes. Web. March 18, 2012.

Medicine Net. Helicobacter Pylori, Dennie Lee, MD. Web. March 18, 2012.

Mayo Clinic. H pylori infection. Web. March 18, 2012.

Medline Plus. HbA1c. Web. March 18, 2012.


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