Magazine article Science News

Ulcer Bug May Trigger Parkinson's: Mouse Study Finds H. Pylori Infection Can Also Affect Brain

Magazine article Science News

Ulcer Bug May Trigger Parkinson's: Mouse Study Finds H. Pylori Infection Can Also Affect Brain

Article excerpt

Brain cells may be the latest victim of a bacterial bad guy already charged with causing ulcers and stomach cancer.

Helicobacterpylori, a bacterium that lives in the stomachs of about half the people in the world, may help trigger Parkinson's disease, researchers reported May 22. Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that kills dopamine-producing cells in some parts of the brain. People with the disease have trouble controlling their movements. About 60,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Some previous studies have suggested that people with Parkinson's disease are more likely than healthy people to have had ulcers at some point in their lives and are more likely to be infected with H. pylori. But until now the connections between the bacterium and the disease have amounted to circumstantial evidence.

Now researchers are gathering new evidence that may pin at least some blame for Parkinson's disease on the notorious bacterium.

Middle-aged mice infected with H. pylori developed abnormal movement patterns over several months after infection, said Traci Testerman, a microbiologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.

Young mice infected with the bacterium didn't show any signs of movement problems. Testerman's colleague Michael Salvatore, also at LSU Shreveport, found that H. pylori-infected mice make less dopamine in parts of the brain that control movement, possibly indicating that dopamine-making cells are dying just as they do in Parkinson's disease patients. …

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