A common stomach bug may play a part in Alzheimer’s disease risk.

New research found that older folks infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) had greater odds for developing Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia.

“Given the global aging population, dementia numbers are expected to triple in the next 40 years,” said study co-author Dr. Paul Brassard, an associate professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal. “However, there remains a lack of effective treatment options for this disease.”

For the study, he and his colleagues analyzed health data gathered between 1988 and 2019 from more than 4 million people in the U.K. 

They found that people 50 and older with symptomatic H. pylori infections had an 11% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

H. pylori, a stomach bug found in two-thirds of people worldwide, can cause indigestion, gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer.

The new findings add to previous evidence on the potential role of infections in Alzheimer’s development. They also open up the potential for investigating whether eradicating H. pylori could prevent Alzheimer’s in some people.

“We hope the findings from this investigation will provide insight on the potential role of H. pylori in dementia, in order to inform the development of prevention strategies, such as individualized eradication programs, to reduce infections at the population level,” Brassard noted in a McGill news release.

The findings were recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

A grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the work.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Alzheimer’s disease.

SOURCE: McGill University, news release, Dec. 22, 2023