A Stomach Bug and Diabetes

Helicobacter infection tied to increased risk of type 2 diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Our bodies are like ecosystems, as even the smallest change can affect the whole. It is a similar case when it comes to disease. One little intruder can be involved in the development of diseases like diabetes.

People who have been infected by Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria that causes ulcers) may have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who have not been exposed to the bacteria.

"Stay active and eat healthy to fight diabetes."

Previous research has linked chronic infection to heart disease and increased levels of inflammatory proteins. However, there is limited evidence about the relationship between infections and diabetes risk.

Allison Aiello, Ph.D., M.S., a professor at the University of Michigan, and colleagues wanted to see if certain viral and bacterial infections - including H. pylori - increased the risk of diabetes.

Their results show that people infected with herpes simplex virus 1, varicella virus, cytomegalovirus, and T. gondii do not have an increased risk of diabetes.

People infected with H. pylori, on the other hand, were 2.7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those without H. pylori infection.

"We demonstrated for the first time that H. pylori infection leads to an increased rate of incident diabetes in a prospective cohort study," the authors write.

The findings suggest that antibiotic and gastrointestinal treatment may play a role in the prevention of diabetes.

It is important to keep in mind this study did not show that H. pylori causes diabetes. Rather, the results show the two are related. 

"Both H. Pylori and diabetes have a high incidence in the US population and might occur together by serendipity rather than causally," says Steven Z. Kussin, M.D., F.A.C.P., author of Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now, Gaining the Upper Hand in Your Medical Care and a gastroenterology expert who was not involved in the study.

For their study, Dr. Aiello and colleagues looked at data from 782 Latino individuals over the age of 60 who did not have diabetes between 1998 and 1999. The researchers tested participants' blood for antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1, varicella virus, cytomegalovirus, H. pylori, and T. gondii. They followed the participants through June 2008.

Even after other risk factors - such as age, history of heart disease, and smoking - were taken into account, H. pylori was associated with an increased risk of diabetes.

"Clearly, as the authors note, there is the need for more studies," says Dr. Kussin. "If H. Pylori does cause diabetes, early treatment with antibiotics could prevent diabetes. For now the association between the two is noted but mass screening of infants and children for H.Pylori would be premature."

The study is published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 3, 2012
Last Updated:
February 6, 2012