Possibly new (not sure) connection between colic and Helicobacter pylori infections

Interesting article: JAMA Network | Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine | Helicobacter pylori and Infantile Colic.  The study basically suggests that infants with colic have a much higher incidence of Helicobacter pylori infections than do a control group of infants.  No causal relationship was established – just a correlation.

The article has been picked up by a few bloggers/news sources such as:

I was surprised that this was suggested to be a completely new connection – between HP and colic.  Given the amount of work on HP this just seemed odd.  So of course I decided to snoop around the web.  And I found a few things that were related especially:
So it seems that others have noticed a possible connection between HP and colic previously.  But in the end there is not a lot of literature out there on the topic.   If anyone out there knows anything else on this topic, please post …

Diabetes & H.pylori – a correlation but no known causation despite authors claims

Am having a hard time right now with the comments from the authors of this new paper showing a correlation between H. pylori presence and both type II diabetes and blood glucose levels.  As far as I can tell, the paper does not show any causal connection.  That is, they do not determine if H. pylori infection is a cause of blood sugar issues or a consequence of blood sugar issues.

Yet the authors of the paper, one of whom (Martin Blaser) is a very respected H. pylori expert are saying things like

This study provides further evidence of late-in-life cost to having H. pylori,

And they suggest that antibiotic treatment for the elderly may help prevent diabetes.

This to be seems to be a bit over the top.  Yes, it makes sense that H. pylori could cause these issues.  And they have a model for how it might.  But they really should be more careful with their words until a causal connection is established.  After all, we have many well known negative effects of antibiotic overuse, including some shown by Blaser.  The last thing we need is people going out and dosing up on antibiotics in the hope that it will prevent type II diabetes.  But I can guarantee that is what will happen if this story gets overplayed.

At least a few sources report on the lack of anything showing a causal connection (e.g. see US News and World Report):

An expert not involved with the study said that while it did not show a cause-and-effect relationship between the bacterium and diabetes, the findings suggest certain possibilities

But I am worried that that is not enough skepticism to counteract the claims of the authors here. The study is certainly interesting.  And their model for a causal connection is fine.  But they probably need to do a little bit of toning down of their claims here.

UPDATE: 3/17/13

After some people asked me questions about this study at a few recent meetings I dug a little deeper.  And I am a bit startled to find out what the basis is for Chen and Blaser to claim a causative association between H. pylori and type II diabetes/ glucose levels.  Here is a summary of their logic:

Helicobacter pylori is acquired almost exclusively in childhood [8], and there is no clear mechanism for how glucose intolerance present only after the age of 18 would increase risk of H. pylori colonization. It also is unlikely that H. pylori positivity and high levels of HbA1c levels share a mutual antecedent cause because there is no diathesis to both acquire H. pylori and to cause glucose intolerance.

They go on to discuss other lines of indirect evidence for why they think their conclusion is correct.  And some of this is very suggestive.  But “likely” and “suggestive” is not proof.  There are many possible issues with their conclusion.  In particular I think it is easy to come up with a scenario whereby something about the host (either their genetics or their history of exposure or even their micro biome) could influence both whether or not they get colonized by H. pylori or even whether or not they get colonized by particular strains of HP.  And the same factor could influence microbiome interactions later in life.  I see no evidence to indicate that H. pylori is the causative agent here.  And for them to then basically recommend prophylactic antibiotics for elderly with HP seems dangerous at best.