Background and aims: We carried out a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to evaluate the existing evidence on the association between Helicobacter pylori infection and iron stores.
Methods: Twelve case reports and case series, 19 observational epidemiologic studies and six intervention trials were included in the review.
Results: Although only few studies controlled for multiple potential confounders, most studies reported a positive association, linking between H. pylori and decreased body iron stores in symptomatic and asymptomatic H. pylori-infected subjects. H. pylori infection may be regarded as a risk factor for reduction in body iron stores and also for iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia, especially in high-risk groups. The results of the meta-analysis of thoroughly designed and analyzed studies revealed an increased risk for iron deficiency anemia; pooled odds ratio (OR) 2.8 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.9, 4.2) and also for iron deficiency; pooled OR 1.38 (95%CI 1.16-1.65) among H. pylori-infected subjects. The biologic mechanism by which H. pylori induces the alteration in the iron stores is not fully understood, but it seems to involve several pathways, including gastrointestinal blood loss, decrease in the absorption of dietary iron, and enhanced uptake of the iron by the bacterium.
Conclusions: H. pylori is associated with reduced iron stores. Future research is needed to determine whether this relationship is a causal association and to better understand its biologic mechanism. The impact of anti-H. pylori therapy on improvement of iron stores needs to be further evaluated in large and well-controlled trials.