A link has been found between depression and stomach ulcers in one of the largest ever trial looking at of genetic factors in peptic ulcer disease.

A team from the University of Queensland (UQ) say they have found evidence to suggest that the gut and brain work together in a way that has never before been found.

Dr Yeda Wu, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), said: “As a medical student, I noticed how some patients’ gastrointestinal symptoms improved after psychotherapy or psychiatry treatment.

“This study linking major depression with an increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders also explains the co-morbidity of the conditions.”

Stress had always thought to be the leading cause of stomach ulcers, until Australian Nobel Prize winners Barry Marshall and Robin Warren made the important discovery that bacteria played a crucial part.

Professor Naomi Wray from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and Queensland Brain Institute, said: “To identify why some people develop ulcers, we studied health data from 456,327 individuals from the UK Biobank and identified eight genetic variations associated with the risk of getting peptic ulcer disease.

“Six of the eight variations can be linked to why some people are more prone to H. pylori infection, which would make them more susceptible to peptic ulcer disease.

“Access to vast health and genomic data sets allows researchers to advance understanding of many complex diseases and traits. Resources such as the UK Biobank have made it possible to now study the genetic contribution to common diseases, such as peptic ulcer disease, and understand the risks more fully.

“If we can provide genetic risk scores to patients, it could be part of a prevention program to help reduce the rates of peptic ulcer disease.”

The findings have been published in the Nature Communications journal.

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