Common stomach bug tied to higher risk for Alzheimer’s

MONTREAL, Quebec — A common bacterial infection that gives two-thirds of the world stomach troubles may also be increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers in Canada have discovered that this bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), raises the odds of Alzheimer’s onset by over 10 percent among older adults.

Typically, H. pylori causes bacterial infections within people, leading to indigestion, gastritis, and ulcers. The team at McGill University notes it can even contribute to the development of stomach cancer. Their new research examined possible links between this prevalent stomach bug and its impact on the brain.

Researchers analyzed health data from more than four million people in the United Kingdom over the age of 50 between 1988 and 2019. Those displaying the symptoms of an H. pylori infection had an 11-percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s — the most common form of dementia worldwide.

Man with stomach or gastrointestinal pain
Man with stomach pain (© Syda Productions –

The study authors are hopeful that their discovery will turn out to be a positive — leading to new ways of preventing Alzheimer’s. Although new treatments have recently been approved for use, there is no definitive cure for the disease. The new study finds that next step may start in the gut, not the brain.

“Given the global aging population, dementia numbers are expected to triple in the next 40 years. However, there remains a lack of effective treatment options for this disease,” says Dr. Paul Brassard, the study’s senior author and a Professor in McGill’s Department of Medicine, in a university release.

“We hope the findings from this investigation will provide insight on the potential role of H. pylori in dementia in order to inform the development of prevention strategies, such as individualized eradication programs, to reduce infections at the population level,” adds Dr. Brassard, a public health and preventive medicine physician at the McGill University Health Center.

The findings are published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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