New studies have found that patients with COPD have a 3 times higher risk of having a certain bacteria within them. The bacteria heliobacter pylori, which is usually linked to the development of stomach ulcers may also be the trigger for lung disease.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD but research suggests that a big role may be played by the bacteria. It mainly colonizes the stomach but evidence suggests that is accumulates in the ears, nose, skin and even the eyes. It has previously been thought to be only involved in stomach ulcers and stomach cancers but recent studies have shown that the bacteria is also linked to other cancers, glaucoma, gall bladder, auto immune disease, iron-deficiency anaemia and other conditions of the eyes, ears, nose and throat.

One theory is that COPD patients may have a high level of this bacteria due to childhood infections that affect lung growth and make them more vulnerable to disease. Early eradication of heliobacter pylori in childhood may enable full lung development and reduce the risk of COPD in later life. The discovery could open the way for new preventative strategies.

  1. pylori stimulates the release of cytokines, which have an inflammatory effect on the body. When the infection and bacteria are eradicated then cytokine levels return to normal and inflammation decreases.

The findings may point to new ways of tackling COPD, because H. pylori can be detected with a breath test and treated with antibiotics. So it could mean that a simple course of antibiotics could kill off this bacteria, reduce the inflammation and reduce the severity of COPD symptoms immensely or if caught early then prevent COPD from developing.