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J Parkinsons Dis. 2018;8(3):367-374. doi: 10.3233/JPD-181327.

Stomaching the Possibility of a Pathogenic Role for Helicobacter pylori in Parkinson's Disease.


While a small subset of Parkinson's disease cases have genetic causes, most cases are sporadic and may have an environmental contributor that has largely remained enigmatic. Remarkably, gastrointestinal symptoms in PD patients serve as a prodrome for the eventual motor dysfunctions. Herein, we review studies exploring a possible link between the gastric human pathogen Helicobacter pylori and PD. We provide plausible and testable hypotheses for how this organism might contribute to PD: 1) a toxin(s) produced by the bacteria; 2) disruption of the intestinal microbiome; 3) local inflammation that crosses the gut-brain axis, leading to neuroinflammation; and 4) manipulation of the pharmacokinetics of the PD drug levodopa by H. pylori, even in those not receiving exogenous levodopa. Key findings are: 1) people with PD are 1.5-3-fold more likely to be infected with H. pylori than people without PD; 2) H. pylori-infected PD patients display worse motor functions than H. pylori-negative PD patients; 3) eradication of H. pylori improves motor function in PD patients over PD patients whose H. pylori was not eradicated; and 4) eradication of H. pylori improves levodopa absorption in PD patients compared to that of PD patients whose H. pylori was not eradicated. Evidence is accumulating that H. pylori has a link with PD, but the mechanism is unclear. Future work should explore the effects of H. pylori on development of PD in defined PD animal models, focusing on the roles of H. pylori toxins, inflammation, levodopa absorption, and microbiome dysbiosis.


Helicobacter pylori; Parkinson’s disease; inflammation; levodopa; microbiome

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