Eradication of Helicobacter pylori Infections Could Ease Gut Symptoms, Motor Dysfunction in Parkinson’s Patients, Study Suggests

Eradication of Helicobacter pylori Infections Could Ease Gut Symptoms, Motor Dysfunction in Parkinson’s Patients, Study Suggests

Eradicating Helicobacter pylori infections could improve motor function, ease gut symptoms and increase levodopa’s effectiveness in Parkinson’s patients, according to a review study.

The research, “Stomaching the Possibility of a Pathogenic Role for Helicobacter pylori in Parkinson’s Disease,” was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

While a small subset of Parkinson’s cases have genetic causes, most cases are sporadic, with unknown environmental causes. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation precede motor complications, suggesting that the disease might start in the gut and subsequently spread to the brain along the brain-gut axis.

This has been observed in rats, where injection of alpha-synuclein fibrils — the major component of Parkinson’s characteristic Lewy bodies — into the gut induced Parkinson’s-related pathology.

Chronic infections with H. pylori affect half the world’s population and may cause gastritis, ulcers, and stomach cancer, as well as various gastrointestinal symptoms. A greater occurrence of ulcers in patients with Parkinson’s was first reported in 1961. More recently, a link between H. pylori and Parkinson’s has been shown, with consistent reports of higher risk for Parkinson’s in people infected with this type of bacteria.

The research team reviewed all major studies that discussed the possible link between H. pylori and Parkinson’s, which led to four key findings:

  • Having Parkinson’s increases by 1.5 to 3 times the risk of H. pylori infection.
  • H. pylori infection worsens motor function in Parkinson’s patients.
  • Eradication of H. pylori with triple therapy improved motor function in Parkinson’s patients compared to infected patients in clinical studies.
  • Eradication of H. pylori improved gut absorption and increased plasma levels of Parkinson’s gold-standard treatment levodopa in patients. Research had shown that H. pylori binds to levodopa, preventing it from reaching the brain and reducing its effectiveness

As for pathways linking this bacterial infection with Parkinson’s, the researchers provided three possible explanations besides impaired levodopa effectiveness. One explanation is that bacterial toxins produced by H. pylori or alterations to the body’s own molecules such as cholesterol can damage neurons.

Want to learn more about the latest research in Parkinson’s Disease? Ask your questions in our research forum.

The infection can also cause a massive inflammatory response in the stomach, which would become systemic, cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) — a semipermeable barrier that protects the brain — and worsen Parkinson’s symptoms and pathology. H. pylori could also reach the brain by colonizing immune cells that cross the BBB themselves.

Finally, H. pylori may disrupt the normal gut microbial population, or microbiota, altering inflammatory mediators that predispose a person to Parkinson’s disease.

“Our conclusion is that there is a strong enough link between the H. pylori and Parkinson’s disease that additional studies are warranted to determine the possible causal relationship,” David J. McGee, PhD, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, said in a press release.

Although current evidence suggests that “eradication of H. pylori or return of the gut microflora to the proper balance in [Parkinson’s] patients may ameliorate gut symptoms, L-dopa malabsorption, and motor dysfunction,” scientists still have little information on whether H. pylori infection “is a predisposing factor, disease progression modifier, or even a direct cause of [Parkinson’s]”, the authors wrote.

Specifically, future studies should explore the interactions of H. pylori with neurons and levodopa, the role of H. pylori toxins, how inflammatory responses to H. pylori may contribute to Parkinson’s; how these infections affect motor function, the role of the bacteria in changing the gut microbiota, and how H. pylori eradication eases Parkinson’s symptoms and improves treatment efficacy.

5 comments

  1. Paula Spurlock says:

    We’ve known of this link for years but nothing ever comes of this or all the other knowledge we’ve accumulated. As a Parkinson’s patient on my 13th year I’m running out of time & patience. Studies galore & nothing actionable–again. Isn’t there something we can do with all this information? How can we find out if we have h.pylori & how can we get rid of it? Any reason we can’t at least try? What is the “triple treatment” & is there some reason it would be harmful to try? Even if it is, might we prefer it to nothing at all?

    • Helen says:

      Hello Paula,
      Triple treatment is the current first line treatment for eradication of H.pylori. It consists of a PPI and 2 antibiotics. H.pylori can easily be diagnosed with a simple breath test. You can contact your doctor for more details 🙂

    • Ethel says:

      H. Pylori may be diagnosed from an endoscopy followed up with bloodwork and a breath test. A close family member has started on two antibiotics and more require more. While he does not have Parkinson’s that we know of, the promise of relief, although a hard road to travel seems to be available. My father died of pneumonia as a complication of Parkinson’s. He lost all motor function and his sanity before it was over. Had we only known about this infection, we might have made his experiences with this awful disease more bearable.

  2. Jane Arsenault says:

    I believe the test for h.pylori is a breath test. You take a pill and if you have it, the bacteria in your stomach turns the urea in the pill to carbon dioxide..that is then detected in your breath. Doesn’t seem like there is any risk, not invasive, and I would guess not all particularly expensive. May be worth asking your primary or neuro how to access if you feel your symptoms indicate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *