Study: Gut Microbe May Reduce MS Risk In Women

shutterstock_73268200Researchers have discovered that a common microbe found in the stomach may be related to MS risk, at least when it comes to women. The said study, which was published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, involved researchers testing a total of 550 people with confirmed MS and a comparison group of 299 healthy participants. The researchers looked for the presence of antibodies for a gut microbe called Helicobacter pylori. Tests on the subjects were done between 2007 and 2011.

H pylori is a common gut microbe that most people acquire before the age of 2. They thrive in the gut environment and can last for a lifetime unless it is treated. Researchers say that around half of the world’s population are infected with H pylori, with most of them living in the developing countries where hygiene standards and rates of prescribing antibiotics are considered lower compared to developed countries. The participants in the said study were also matched for age and gender.

The researchers discovered that the prevalence of the H pylori infection was significantly lower in participants with MS compared to the healthy control group. But this only seems to affect women, where the infection rate was around 30 percent lower. After taking into account certain factors such as year of birth, age of diagnosis for H pylori and the duration of symptoms, women who suffer from MS and also tested positive for H pylori infection experience less disabling MS symptoms as compared to those who tested negative for the said gut microbe infection.

Moreover, the researchers found out that the reverse seems to be happening among the men, where the positive result for H pylori infection was linked to higher rates of disability due to MS.

In addition, the researchers did not find any link between the H pylori infection and the MS relapse rate.

The researchers believe that the findings of the study may confirm the idea of hygiene hypothesis as a probable reason for the recent increases in the incidence of autoimmune diseases such as MS all over the world. The premise behind the hygiene hypothesis is that childhood infections may help regulate and prime the immune system to combat autimmune and other allergic diseases later in life. Currently, the researchers do not have a clear explanation as to the gender disparity involving H pylori infection and MS symptoms, requiring further studies ahead to get a clearer picture of why this is happening.

Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2015, January 20). Common gut microbe might curb MS risk, at least in women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from

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