April 6, 2012

Gut germs govern growth

Treating H. pylori infection in children may help their growth rebound, a recent study suggests.


Nearly half the world’s population is colonized by the gut bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Not only can this infection cause stomach ulcers and increase one’s risk of gastric cancer, colonization can also significantly slow growth in children. Antibiotic treatment to clear H. pylori infection causes growth to rebound in the short term, but it is unclear whether this improvement is long-lasting.

To assess the long-term impact of treating children for H. pylori, Pelayo Correa, Anne Potter Wilson Chair in Medicine, and colleagues tracked the growth of school-age Colombian children for four years after treatment (compared to untreated children).

They report, in the March issue of The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, that children who remained positive for H. pylori were 1.45 cm shorter than children who cleared the infection – and 1.76 cm shorter by the end of the observation period than children who were always negative.

The results show that treating H. pylori infection can have long-lasting effects on growth, suggesting that school-age children with H. pylori may benefit from antibiotic treatment.