The mechanisms triggering the production of platelet autoantibodies in autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (AITP) are poorly understood. Recently, marked improvements in platelet counts have been reported in patients with AITP and concurrent Helicobacter pylori infection after eradication of H pylori by a standard antibiotic regimen. We looked for an association between H pylori infection and AITP in adults.
Fifty-one adults of white French origin, negative for human immunodeficiency virus (mean ± SD age, 40 ± 19.8 years), with AITP and a platelet count of less than 50 × 103/µL at onset were included. Thirty-five consecutive nonthrombocytopenic patients (mean ± SD age, 43 ± 22 years) of the same origin and with unknown H pylori status served as control subjects. Antibodies against H pylori were detected by means of an agglutination method in both patients and control subjects. Sex ratio, mean age, hemorrhagic manifestations, response to corticosteroid therapy, and final outcome were compared in H pylori–negative and H pylori–positive patients with AITP. To test for a possible molecular mimicry mechanism, we also used an immunoblot assay to look for specific H pylori antibodies in platelet eluates from 3 H pylori–positive patients with AITP.
Seroprevalence of H pylori in patients with AITP (15 [29%]) was not significatively different from that in control subjects (10 [29%]). The H pylori–positive and H pylori–negative patients with AITP did not differ in main characteristics at AITP onset, response rate to corticosteroids, and final outcome. None of the 3 patients investigated had H pylori antibodies in platelet eluates.
Although the role of H pylori in a subgroup of patients with AITP cannot be excluded, we found no evidence of an association between H pylori infection and AITP.