man swallowing tablet
New research suggests that drugs used to reduce gastric acid reflux may promote a type of gut bacteria tied to chronic liver disease.

Researchers found that proton pump inhibitors, which are drugs used to reduce gastric acid, could promote the growth of a type of bacteria associated with chronic liver diseases.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs that reduce the production of gastric, or stomach, acid in the long-term. PPIs are often used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a condition wherein gastric acid travels up to the esophagus, producing an uncomfortable burning sensation.

One study suggests that PPI prescriptions in the United States are on the rise, despite the fact that they are tied to a series of adverse events. Another recent article even linked PPIs with an increased risk of death.

Now, emerging research from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla suggests that PPIs may also have a role to play in the development of liver diseases.

“Our stomachs produce gastric acid to kill ingested microbes,” explains senior study author Dr. Bernd Schnabl, “and taking a medication to suppress gastric acid secretion can change the composition of the gut microbiome.”

“We found,” he continues, “that the absence of gastric acid promotes growth of Enterococcus bacteria in the intestines and translocation [transfer] to the liver, where they exacerbate inflammation and worsen chronic liver disease.”

The study’s findings have now been published in the journal Nature Communications.

PPIs may promote Enterococcus population

The team studied the effect of gastric acid suppression in the promotion of a series of chronic liver diseases – alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – using mouse models.

For every model, they either genetically engineered the animals to produce less gastric acid, or they reduced production by giving the mice the PPI omeprazole.

Then, the…