Mastic's Ability to Improve Stomach Distress Is Needed Throughout the World
The Only Good Helicobacter
Is a Dead Helicobacter
Helicobacter pylori - the cause of most ulcers and many gastrointestinal problems the world over - is believed to have appeared quite recently as a human bacterium. This is thought to be true because an international research team has found that the genotype of H. pylori (its overall genetic constitution) varies substantially with geographic region.1
THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENES
"Such 'geographic genomics' may uncover new genes that affect human infection, increase our understanding of bacterium-host interactions in colonization and disease, and provide new insights into the evolution of this diverse and globally distributed human pathogen," the researchers explain.2 In investigating more than 500 strains of H. pylori collected from five continents, the research team, led by Dr. Douglas E. Berg of Washington University Medical School in St Louis, examined their DNA sequence patterns.
THREE PYLORI GENOTYPES
The research team found three different genotypes in the species H. pylori, with one type characteristic of Americans, including those from both North America and South America, another type characteristic of the Japanese and Chinese, and a third type characteristic of Indians from Calcutta. The specific nature of the bacterium - it thrives in polluted water - helps explain the fact that H. pylori infection is more prevalent and serious in developing countries.
"My favorite interpretation of this finding is that the Spanish conquerors and colonists brought H. pylori to Peru when they conquered the Incan empire nearly 500 years ago and that the bacterium was not present in the ancestors who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia more than 10,000 years ago," said Berg.3 This led the researchers to hypothesize that H. pylori might have come into the human population very recently in its evolutionary history.
JUMPING FROM ANIMALS TO HUMANS
If H. pylori had always been with humans, we would be far less likely to find different strains in diverse parts of the world. Curiously, there was a similarity between the strains from Madrid and Peru, indicating a recent transmission and giving more substance to the speculation that H. pylori might have jumped quite recently from animal hosts to people. Because it has been possible to transfer H. pylori from humans to animals, it's reasonable to suppose that animals might have been the original source of the bacterium.
There has been some suggestion recently that H. pylori may have a role as a codependent or symbiotic organism, much the way the bacterium that became our mitochondria coexisted in mutual benefit. To the "pylori infections are good for you" argument, Dr. Berg replies, "My sense is . . . the only good Helicobacter is a dead Helicobacter." Given what we know about the devastation of ulcers and gastric carcinoma, we would agree.
Helicobacter pylori has been implicated in children with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP), a common pediatric problem throughout the world. In a report from Israel a few years ago, children with RAP who were diagnosed and treated for H. pylori were found to have their RAP symptoms significantly reduced or relieved.4
When the authors of this report, Dr. Dov Heldenberg and colleagues, evaluated 80 Israeli children with RAP, 43 tested positive for H. pylori infection. Of 34 children who were reexamined after two months of treatment, 29 remained symptom-free. The remaining five children were symptom-free after additional treatment. All 34 children were still well at the eight-month follow-up. The researchers concluded that a link exists between eradication of H. pylori and recovery from abdominal pain.
In a recent study, in order to evaluate the role of gastritis or H. pylori infection in children having RAP, researchers studied two groups of 70 children with gastritis or H. pylori.5 The first group was comprised of children complaining of RAP, while the second group had GI symptoms other than RAP (non-RAP). Whenever H. pylori infection was found, it was treated with the conventional antibiotic therapy. The children were followed for an average of 6 months.
In the final analysis, if the children were found to have both H. pylori and gastritis - whether in the RAP or non-RAP group - treatment was more likely to result in clinical improvement than if the children had just gastritis or just H. pylori, or neither.
THE IRONY OF MASTIC IN THE NEW WORLD
When Christopher Columbus voyaged to the New World at the end of the fifteenth century, one goal at the top of his list was to find the substance that in his estimation was worth its weight in gold: mastic (see Discovering Antibacterial Mastic - Page 1 - April 1999). Yet there has been little research to justify such a high valuation of this remarkable herb until now, more than five hundred years later, when it has been found to kill the H. pylori bacterium, the cause of most ulcers. Ironically, even though Columbus did not succeed in finding mastic in the New World, its scientifically justified revival took place here.
Because of the established safety of mastic, which has been used historically for children's diarrhea, it seems likely that this herb could provide a great deal of benefit, especially in areas of the world where lengthy and expensive antibiotic programs are beyond the reach of most people.
- Kersulyte D, Mukhopadhyay AK, Velapatino B, Su W, Pan Z, Garcia C, Hernandez V, Valdez Y, Mistry RS, Gilman RH, Yuan Y, Gao H, Alarcon T, Lopez-Brea M, Balakrish Nair G, Chowdhury A, Datta S, Shirai M, Nakazawa T, Ally R, Segal I, Wong BC, Lam SK, Olfat FO, Boren T, Engstrand L. Differences in genotypes of Helicobacter pylori from different human populations. J Bacteriol 2000 Jun;182(11):3210-8.
- Mukhopadhyay AK, Kersulyte D, Jeong JY, Datta S, Ito Y, Chowdhury A, Chowdhury S, Santra A, Bhattacharya SK, Azuma T, Nair GB, Berg DE. Distinctiveness of genotypes of Helicobacter pylori in Calcutta, India. J Bacteriol 2000 Jun;182(11):3219-27.
- Sage L. Study contradicts assumption that ulcer bug has always plagued humans. Office of Medical Public Affairs, Washington University School of Medicine at Washington University Medical Center. http://medicine.wustl.edu/~wumpa/news/2000/bergbug.html
- Heldenberg D, Wagner Y, Heldenberg E, Keren S, Auslaender L, Kaufshtein M, Tenebaum G. The role of Helicobacter pylori in children with recurrent abdominal pain. Am J Gastroenterol 1995 Jun;90(6):906-9.
- Kimia A, Zahavi I, Shapiro R, Rosenbach Y, Hirsh A, Druzd T, Yahav J, Dinari G. The role of Helicobacter pylori and gastritis in children with recurrent abdominal pain. Isr Med Assoc J 2000 Feb;2(2):126-8.