Helicobacter pylori causes ulcers, and has also been implicated in the development of stomach cancer and ischaemic heart disease.
Dr Antonelli and colleagues from Italy based their findings on 59 patients with persistent atrial fibrillation.
The patients included those who had no structural heart disease.
| Levels of C reactive protein were 5 times higher with atrial fibrillation vs healthy controls|
The research team gave all the patients a battery of tests, including a heart tracing, and levels of C reactive protein, an indicator of systemic inflammation.
The team also tested the patients for the presence of H pylori.
The researchers compared results with those from a group of 45 healthy volunteers in whom the same tests were carried out.
Both groups were similar in terms of age and levels of blood fats.
The team also reported that more of the patients with atrial fibrillation were being treated for high blood pressure.
The research team found that the patients with atrial fibrillation were around 20 times as likely to test positive for H pylori as the healthy volunteers.
The researchers noted that patients with atrial fibrillation had levels of C reactive protein around 5 times higher than those of healthy volunteers.
Rates of H pylori significantly higher among those patients with persistent atrial fibrillation than those with spasmodic episodes of irregular heart rhythm.
In addition, the team observed that rates of C reactive protein levels were higher with persistent atrial fibrillation than with spasmodic episodes of irregular heart rhythm.
Dr Antonelli's team concludes, “H pylori is a very resilient bacterium and has properties that enable it to escape detection by the immune system.”
“And chronic gastritis, caused by persistent H pylori infection, may predispose to atrial fibrillation”.