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Probiotic May Treat Ulcers Caused by Helicobacter pylori


The most common cause of gastric and duodenal ulcers, the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, may have met their match in a type of probiotic. A recent study shows that a strain of Bifidobacterium bifidum was nearly 95 percent effective against the bacteria.

Peptic ulcers respond to probiotic treatment

Peptic ulcers are sores that develop on the lining of the stomach (gastric ulcer) or duodenum (beginning of the small intestine; duodenal ulcer). Each year in the United States, about half a million people develop a peptic ulcer.

Contrary to popular opinion, most of these ulcers are not caused by eating spicy foods (although such foods can aggravate an existing ulcer) but by H. pylori. Another common cause is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Currently, peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori are treated with antibiotics, but as the authors of the new study note, such treatment β€œis neither sufficient nor satisfactory.” In fact, some strains of H. pylori are resistant to certain antibiotics, so antibiotic regimens differ throughout the world. The team of Spanish researchers claim that use of a strain of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, has the potential to prevent H. pylori infection.

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The bacteria studied were Bifidobacterium, a type of probiotic often used in the fermentation of dairy products to make yogurt and other fermented dairy foods, and in food supplements. Previous studies have shown that Bifidobacterium is effective against H. pylori in vitro (in test tubes).

The research team used feces samples from breast-fed infants and tested several strains of Bifidobacterium against H. pylori. They found the strain Bifidobacterium bifidum CECT 7366 to be nearly 95 percent effective under some conditions in vitro.

The strain was then tested in infected mice, and after three weeks of treatment with the probiotic bacteria, the treated mice had considerably fewer ulcers than mice in an untreated (control) group. The scientists also observed that the probiotic helped reduce damage to the gastric tissue caused by H. pylori.

The Spanish researchers concluded that the strain B. bifidum CECT 7366 is a probiotic that is effective against H. pylori and peptic ulcers caused by these bacteria. Before the probiotic can be made available for the market, human clinical trials are needed.

Chenoll B et al. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2011 Feb; 77(4): 1335-43
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Ramakrishnan K, Salinas RC. American Family Physician 2007; 76(7): 1005-12