Background Epidemiological studies have suggested that gastro-intestinal infections including Helicobacter pylori, intestinal microflora (commensal bacteria) and geohelminths may influence the risk of asthma and allergy but data from early life are lacking.
Objective We aimed to determine the independent effects of these infections on allergic disease symptoms and sensitization in an Ethiopian birth cohort.
Methods In 2008/09, 878 children (87% of the 1006 original singletons in a population-based birth cohort) were followed up at age 3 and interview data obtained on allergic symptoms and potential confounders. Allergen skin tests to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and cockroach were performed, levels of Der p 1 and Bla g 1 in the child's bedding measured and stool samples analysed for geohelminths and, in a random subsample, enterococci, lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and H. pylori antigen. The independent effects of each exposure on wheeze, eczema, hayfever and sensitization were determined using multiple logistic regression.
Results Children were commonly infected with H. pylori (41%; 253/616), enterococci (38.1%; 207/544), lactobacilli (31.1%; 169/544) and bifidobacteria (18.9%; 103/544) whereas geohelminths were only found in 8.5% (75/866). H. pylori infection was associated with a borderline significant reduced risk of eczema (adjusted OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–1.01, P=0.05) and D. pteronyssinus sensitization (adjusted OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.17–1.08, P=0.07). Geohelminths and intestinal microflora were not significantly associated with any of the outcomes measured.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance Among young children in a developing country, we found evidence to support the hypothesis of a protective effect of H. pylori infection on the risk of allergic disease. Further investigation of the mechanism of this effect is therefore of potential therapeutic and preventive value.
Cite this as: A. Amberbir, G. Medhin, W. Erku, A. Alem, R. Simms, K. Robinson, A. Fogarty, J. Britton, A. Venn, and G. Davey, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 1422–1430.