Helicobacter Pylori (cont.)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
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.
In this Article
What is Helicobacter pylori?
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that causes chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach (gastritis) in humans. This bacterium also is considered as a common cause of ulcers worldwide; as many as 90% of people with ulcers have detectable organisms.
H. pylori infection is most likely acquired by ingesting contaminated food and water, and through person to person contact. In the United States, about 30% of the adult population is infected (50% of infected persons are infected by the age of 60), but the prevalence of infection is decreasing because there is increasing awareness about the infection, and treatment is common. About 50% of the world population is estimated to have detectable H. pylori in their gastrointestinal tract (GI tract, but stomach, mainly).
The infection is more common in crowded living conditions with poor sanitation. In countries with poor sanitation, approximately 90% of the adult population can be infected. Infected individuals usually carry the infection indefinitely (for life) unless they are treated with medications to eradicate the bacterium. One out of every six patients with H. pylori infection may develop ulcers of the duodenum or stomach. H. pylori also are associated with stomach cancer and a rare type of lymphocytic tumor of the stomach called MALT (mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue) lymphoma. In addition, several recent research papers have shown a link between diabetes, infections, elevated hemoglobin A1C levels, and H. pylori.
What does H. pylori cause in humans?
H. pylori infections start with a person acquiring the bacterium from another person (via either the fecal-oral or oral-oral route). Although the majority of individuals that have these bacteria in their GI tracts have few if any symptoms (see symptoms), most people develop stomach inflammation (gastritis) from the body's response to the bacterium itself and to a cytotoxin termed Vac-A, a chemical that the bacterium produces. Researchers also suggest that the stomach acid stimulates the bacterium in addition to the cytotoxin, and increases invasion of the lining of the stomach, inflammation, and ulcer formation. Other investigators have shown that these bacteria and their products are associated with alterations in the cells lining the stomach that when altered are associated with stomach and other cancers, although these are infrequently seen diseases.
The frequency of people infected may somehow be related to race. About 60% of Hispanics and about 54% of African Americans have detectable organisms as compared to about 20% to 29% of Anglo Americans. In developing countries, children are very commonly infected.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/6/2015
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