Stomach bug linked to heart disease

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The Independent Online
INFECTION by a bug normally associated with stomach ulcers may contribute to heart disease, scientists said yesterday.

Italian researchers found evidence of the organism, Helicobacter pylori in 62 per cent of people with heart disease and only 40 per cent of those without the disease. Dr Vincenzo Pasceri, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, who led the study, said: "The prevalence of infection by Helicobacter pylori was similar in patients with heart attack, unstable chest pain, or chronic chest pain. The findings strongly suggest that the association between Helicobacter pylori and heart disease is related to the strength of this bacteria."

The researchers looked at 88 patients who had ischaemic heart disease, a condition caused by poor blood flow to the heart and which causes heart attacks. They were matched by another group of 88 who did not have heart disease. Their findings are reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association

The key factor was whether the bacteria was a virulent strain with a gene called CagA. Heart disease affected 43 per cent of people with bacteria containing this gene, compared with 17 per cent of those whose bacteria lacked the gene.

Helicobacter pylori takes the form of tiny, spiral-shaped organisms which live in the stomachs of most people and occasionally cause of gastritis, the underlying condition behind ulcers and some forms of cancer.

Dr Pasceri said people with ulcers because of Helicobacter pylori infection should not assume they were at increased risk of heart disease. But he added: "Prevention and treatment of these infections may be a new strategy for the prevention of ischaemic heart disease."