Woman SneezingResearch has found that Heliobacter pylori, the main cause of peptic ulcers, might just have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of asthmas and allergies. The study based on this finding was published yesterday.

Researchers questioned 7,663 men and women about their history of asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergy symptoms, and then tested them for antibodies to H.pylori. They also administered skin tests using 10 standardized allergens.

It was found that there was no association between the presence of H-pylori and current asthma status. However, subjects under the age of 43 who were colonized with the most virulent strain of H.pylori, called cagA, were 32% less likely to have asthma, 35 % less likely to have allergic rhinitis and 20 % less likely to report allergy symptoms than those who did not carry the bacterium. These subjects were also one-third less likely to have skin sensitivity to five common pollen plants and to Alternaria alternate, a mold.

“Helicobacter was once ubiquitous,” said Dr. Martin J. Blaser, a co-author of the article and the chairman of the department of medicine at New York University. “We provide evidence that there is a relationship between the decrease in helicobacter prevalence and the increase in childhood asthma.”

The researchers noted that their observations were consistent with the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that childhood infections, particularly infections of the gut, help diminish or prevent allergies and asthma.