A common gut microbe, Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori), can affect the ability of a person with Parkinson’s disease to absorb the medications that control motor fluctuations, according to research presented at the 2013 International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Sydney, Australia.
"We believe that H. pylori infection is making it more difficult for Parkinson's disease drugs to work, so by eradicating the infection, we appear to be speeding up the drugs' activity," Norlinah Mohamed Ibrahim, MBBCH, chief of medicine at the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, said during her presentation. "We also think that H. pylori may play a role in the pathogenesis and severity of Parkinson's disease and we are continuing to research that question."
Mohamed Ibrahim’s study involved 76 patients with Parkinson’s disease, 27 of whom were treated for H. pylori using multiple antibiotics. All of the patients also were taking Levodopa, a drug used to control the motor symptoms related to Parkinson’s. Those whose H. pylori infections had been eliminated showed better-managed motor control, which researchers concluded was because the treated intestines were better able to absorb the Levodopa.
The gut bacterium and the effects of motor-calming drugs have long been thought to be connected. The Michael J. Fox Foundation received a research grant to study the phenomenon in 2007. The latest round of research suggests the value of screening residents with Parkinson’s for H. pylori, especially if their Levodopa therapy is wearing off faster than usual or not working as well as in the past.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two-thirds of the global population has H. pylori, but it is more common among African-American and Hispanic adults.