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Asthma oddity

A common microbe that colonizes the stomach might also protect against asthma

11:14am, July 15, 2008

Children infected with a common stomach bacterium are less likely to have asthma than other kids, according to a study that will appear in the Aug. 15 Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The bug in question, Helicobacter pylori, is a microbe with a history like no other. A longtime resident of the human stomach, H. pylori went largely undetected until Australian scientists discovered it in 1979 and went on to show that it can cause stomach ulcers. Further work has linked it to stomach cancer. It’s now treated with antibiotics whenever detected.

Because H. pylori had been hitchhiking in humans for so long — possibly 50,000 years or more — microbiologist Martin Blaser of New YorkUniversity became interested in the possible consequences of knocking it out.

He suspected that widespread antibiotic use has been suppressing H. pylori infections in industrialized countries o

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