The Italian Almanac


Italian Science - June 17

Researchers in Italy say a common stomach infection that causes ulcers may also be linked to an irregular heart rhythm. They found that the bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori was 20 times more common in patients suffering from persistent atrial fibrillation, a disorder that increases the risk of strokes.

"We have shown the highly significant link between atrial fibrillation and H. pylori in our relatively small sample," said Professor Annibale Montenero, of the Policlinico Multimedica in Milan. In patients suffering from atrial fibrillation the heart's small upper chambers do not beat effectively. If blood is not pumped out of the chambers it could form a clot that could result in a stroke.

In a study of 59 patients with the disorder, Professor Montenero and her team found they were more likely to test positive for the infection than a control group of 45 healthy people. They also found that the patients had higher levels of a reactive protein that is an indicator of inflammation.