H. pylori (Helicobacter Pylori ) Infection

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Can H. pylori infections be prevented?

With at least 50% of the world population with detectable H. pylori in their stomachs, it seems likely that with no vaccine available, it will be very difficult or impossible for people to have no exposure to this bacteria. The chance of the organisms causing symptomatic infection is low, but certainly not absent. Currently, suggestions have been made to prevent ulcers, but the effectiveness of these recommendations are unknown. The following is a list of recommendations to help prevent ulcers:

  • Reduce or stop the intake of alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Substitute acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) with aspirin for pain control
  • Substitute acetaminophen or other drugs with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Avoid caffeine in coffee and many "power" drinks
  • Check for GI symptoms and treat immediately during or after radiation therapy
  • Identify and reduce or avoid stress
  • Wash hands with uncontaminated water to avoid contracting the bacterium
  • If infected with H. pylori, antimicrobial treatment may avoid ulcer formation and extension of disease

Currently, there is no commercially available vaccine to prevent either the infection or colonization of the stomach by H pylori. However, research is ongoing, and the NIH is funding vaccine studies in conjunction with vaccine makers (For example, Helicovax to prevent H. pylori colonization of human GI tracts by EpiVax, Inc.). Moreover, some nutritionists suggest that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in sugar may help reduce or stop H. pylori infection.

What is the prognosis for a person with H. pylori infection?

Many infections are mild and produce few, if any, symptoms. The prognosis of these infections is excellent. Patients with more serious symptoms that are treated appropriately usually have a good prognosis although up to 20% may have reoccurrence of the infection. Those with ulcers who have effective eradication of their infection heal their ulcers well (with usually minor scarring in the tissue).

Untreated and severe infections have a more guarded prognosis because extensive damage can occur with bleeding, scarring, anemia, and hypotension (low blood pressure) occurring. Some patients with these symptoms will die if not treated quickly. About 1% of people with the infection go on to develop gastric cancer. Researchers have suggested that it may be possible to use special inhibitors that will block the bacteria from adhering to the lining of the stomach gastric tissue.

Reviewed on 6/28/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Cancer.gov. Helicobacter pylori and Cancer. Reviewed Sep 5, 2013
<http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/h-pylori-fact-sheet>

Chey, W. et al. "American College Gastroenterology Guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori Infection." Amer. J. Gastro, 102:1808-1825, 2007.
<http://s3.gi.org/physicians/guidelines/ManagementofHpylori.pdf>

FDA. FDA approves first Helicobacter pylori breath test for children. Feb 24, 2014
<http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm293278.htm>

Santacroce, L. "Helicobacter Pylori Infection." Medscape. Sep 11, 2014.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/176938-overview>

Crowe, S. MD., et al. "Patient information: Helicobacter pylori infection and treatment (Beyond the Basics)." UpToDate. Oct 08, 2015.
<http://www.uptodate.com/contents/helicobacter-pylori-infection-and-treatment-beyond-the-basics>

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