Is H. pylori Contagious?

  • 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: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

H. pylori Symptoms

Most people who are infected with H. pylori bacteria have few or no symptoms. However, some people may experience episodes of gastritis with symptoms such as:

  • abdominal discomfort.
  • bloating,
  • minor belching,
  • nausea, and
  • vomiting

What is H. pylori?

H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) are spiral shaped bacteria. H. pylori bacteria are unique because they produce the enzyme urease that allows the bacteria to live in the harsh environment of the stomach. The urease enzyme it produces reacts with urea to form ammonia that neutralizes enough of the stomach's acid to allow the organisms to survive in the tissues.

Is H. pylori contagious?

H. pylori is considered to be contagious and passed from person to person by:

  • saliva,
  • fecal contamination (in food or water), and
  • poor hygiene practices.

Most investigators think that individuals become infected as children because the parents and the person's siblings are likely to transmit the organisms to them while they are young. The organisms are considered to be a major cause of both stomach and small intestine (duodenal) ulcers.

How long before I know I am infected with H. pylori?

About two thirds of the world's population is infected with H. pylori. A significant percentage of this population likely became infected as children and most show no signs of infection for many years. Consequently, individuals may realize that they are infected with H. pylori when they develop symptoms of stomach inflammation (gastritis) and/or ulcers, usually in their adult years.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/23/2016

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