While aspirin is commonly taken to treat mild health symptoms such as pain, fever and inflammation, it is feared the medication could interact with a common stomach bacteria and increase the risk of stomach bleeding.
The stomach bacteria, known as Helicobacter pylori, more than doubles the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding in people who take daily low-doses of 325mg or less of aspirin, according to new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia. A third of Australian adults carry the Helicobacter pylori bug, which is a major cause of stomach ulcers. Worryingly, many of the people who carry the bacteria are unaware they have it.
The latest research found that while Helicobacter pylori and aspirin are independent risk factors for stomach bleeding, little information was previously known about how the two interacted together. The study said people who carry the bacteria are nearly two-and-one-half times more likely to experience an upper gastrointestinal bleed after taking aspirin, than those who don’t carry the bacteria.
Analysing relevant data published since 1989, a systematic search identified 7,599 total records of Helicobacter pylori infection and seven were eligible for meta-analysis. A total of 1,172 patients were included, 1,132 of whom took low-dose aspirin. The data found the chance of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in aspirin users is twice as high in people with the stomach bacteria.
Researchers concluded that testing for and treating the Helicobacter pylori infection should be considered in patients who use low doses of aspirin, especially in cases where the risk of peptic ulcer bleeding is already increased.
“The cost–benefit balance of testing for and treating the bacterium may be insufficient to permit recommending this approach for all patients receiving aspirin on a long-term basis,” the authors of the study wrote. “However, the evidence is sufficient to warrant considering eradication of the infection in patients who are at high risk of ulcer complications because of comorbid conditions.”
It’s not the first time the effectiveness of aspirin has made headlines this month. An earlier study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found elderly people taking a daily dose of aspirin could be doing more harm than good.
That study, conducted by Monash University, found taking aspirin daily didn’t reduce the risk of death, disability or cardiovascular disease. Instead, similar to the new study, it found the medication can increase the risk of major bleeding. The study of more than 19,000 people over the age of 70 found those who took aspirin had no health benefits and the use of medication slightly increased the risk of death.
Researchers claimed the findings were a major breakthrough and could shift global guidelines relating to aspirin and treating with common conditions associated with ageing.