H. pylori Infections


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Characteristics of an H. pylori Host

Age-related Correlation

The pathogen is generally acquired during the first five years of a person’s life. The percentage of people affected in developing countries is 30-50% in a sample containing only children and reaches as high as 90% in a sample containing only adults.

Socioeconomic Correlation

The percentage of people infected by H. pylori is nearly 90% in developing countries and it is around 40% in the developed world, excluding Japan. The prevalence among children up to the age of ten is only 1.2%-12% in developed countries. In developing countries, however, it is the most isolated bacteria in children in that age bracket. In developed countries, the prevalence of the infection continues to decline, whereas no such change is visible in developing countries.

How H. pylori Enter the Body

H. pylori enter the body through the mouth and then move to the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. They are transmitted from a person’s mouth to another’s, possibly by kissing or during sexual intercourse. They can also be transmitted by the consumption of food or water that has been contaminated by fecal matter.

Pathogenesis:  H. pylori in Action

As stated earlier, H. pylori enter through the mouth and move into the stomach. They have the capability to neutralize stomach acids and survive in the otherwise harsh environment of the stomach. They do this by creating an enzyme which breaks down the urea in the stomach acid to ammonia.

What this means is that they can reduce stomach acid, until they reach the lining of the stomach. Once there, they are protected from being detected by the body’s immune system by mucus on the stomach lining. They affect the stomach lining by invading it and generating a cytotoxin called vacuolating cytotoxin A (Vac-A). With the gastric tissue exposed, the combined action of the stomach acids as well as H. pylori leads to stomach ulcers and perhaps over time even to gastric cancer.

The immune system of the body responds by sending macrophages, neutrophils, and lymphocytes to the gastric tissue to combat the inflammation. But once it reaches the stomach lining, the bacteria have mechanisms that can help them avoid getting killed by phagocytes. They are therefore able to counter-act the phagocytes generated by the immune system of the body and continue multiplying and spreading the damage over the gastric tissue.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Infection

H.pylori are generally contracted by contact with an infected person. There are many factors that increase the risk of infection by H. pylori. Some of them are:

Crowded Areas

Living in crowded areas increases the chances of contracting an H. pylori infection. This is especially the case if a lot of people are living under the same roof, constantly interacting with each other.

Impure Drinking Water

Living without a source of clean water increases the risk of infection. The spiral, active form of the bacteria can survive in river water for up to a week while the coccoid form is known to survive for up to a year in river water. In many areas of developing countries, insufficiently treated river water forms the main water supply.

Improper Sanitation

Children in countries such as Brazil where the sewage disposal is not properly done or flush toilets are not provided are at a higher risk of infection. It has also been observed that if the garbage collection service is not regular, the accumulation of waste could also increase the risk of infection.

Living with Infected People

If one is living with an infected person, then he/she is at a greater risk of getting the infection since the primary mode of transmission is by contact.

Symptoms of an H. pylori Infection

Immediate Symptoms of an H. pylori infection are:

  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal discomfort

Serious symptoms of an H. pylori infection include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting violently and vomiting blood
  • Bad breath
  • Dark or tarry stools
  • Anemia
  • Heartburn

People with any of the above symptoms must consult a doctor and diagnose the underlying medical condition responsible for it. This is because all of these symptoms are very general and these do not help distinguish infection by H. pylori from other medical conditions. And the sooner the patient receives treatment for the infection, the better it would be for him/her.

Testing for H. pylori

People who exhibit symptoms of ulcer, gastritis or stomach cancer form the test subjects for the presence of H. pylori. It is generally detected by collecting blood, breath and stool samples.

The following methods are used for diagnosing ulcers:

Medical History

The medical problems experienced by the patient in the past along with the exhibited symptoms are analyzed. If possible, previously suggested treatment procedures and the response of the patient to them can also be considered.

Upper GI Series

Special X-rays are used to view the inside of the stomach. These would help to determine the presence of ulcers on the stomach walls once the patient drinks a chalky white solution of Barium.

Endoscopy

In endoscopy, the doctors insert an instrument (called an endoscope) to observe the inside of a cavity or an organ (in this case, the stomach). This is a painless procedure and only very few people have reported a sore throat or another minor discomfort.  In endoscopy, the doctor can take images with the camera at the end of the endoscope or can take a piece of tissue to better analyze it.

Once an ulcer is diagnosed, the doctor tests for H. pylori. To test for H. pylori, doctors collect and analyze blood, breath, and stool samples.

Blood Test

A blood test remains the most common non-invasive test for H. pylori infections. Blood samples are analyzed for antibodies. A blood test is useful for detecting active strains of H. pylori as well as understanding whether the patient has suffered from infection by the bacteria in the past.

Urea Breath Test

A urea breath test is the most common test used to detect an active case of H. pylori infection. In this test, the patient drinks a urea solution which contains a carbon atom. If H. pylori are present, then they will reduce the urea, releasing the carbon atom, which will reach the lungs and is exhaled by the patient. This test is 96-98% accurate.

Stool Test

The stool test involves detecting H. pylori in fecal matter. Studies have shown stool tests to be accurate in detecting an active infection.

Tissue Test

A tissue test is generally carried out using the tissue sample that is removed during endoscopy. They are more invasive than the tests mentioned earlier, and it is therefore always conducted after the earlier tests.

  • The rapid urease test detects the enzyme urease. This enzyme is produced by H. pylori.
  • A histology test (or biopsy) allows the doctor to find and examine the actual bacteria.
  • A culture test involves allowing H. pylori to grow in the tissue sample.
  • Treatment for H. pylori

A note on H. pylori and Antibiotic Resistance

Across the globe, a growing number of bacteria and viruses are becoming resistant to antibiotics. As many as 23,000 people die every year in the United States as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections. An example is the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

A study in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that some patients with H. pylori infections in the United States that were resistant to at least two different antibiotics. The American Journal of Gastroenterology reported a large number of H. pylori infections in Latin American countries that were resistant to antibiotics.

Fortunately, H. pylori are still treated by a wide range of antibiotics. Early treatment ensures the successful elimination of ulcers, gastritis, and even stomach cancer.

Individual Methods

For the treatment of ulcers resulting from H. pylori, the following methods are used:

  • Antibiotics are used to kill H. pylori bacteria. Examples of such antibiotics are metronidazole, tetracycline, clarithromycin, and amoxicillin. Antibiotic regimens for patients will vary across the world depending on the antibiotic resistance of H. pylori in a particular region.
  • Drugs that reduce the gastric acid like proton pump inhibitors or histamine receptor (H2) blockers are administered. These are referred to as acid suppressors and suppress the secretion of gastric acid. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors have been prescribed for years in the treatment of ulcers. However, by themselves, they cannot be used to eliminate an H. pylori infection.
  • Medicines that form a coating over the ulcer and help it to heal like bismuth subsalicylate also help to treat H. pylori infections. They are referred to as stomach protectors. In addition, bismuth subsalicylate also kills H. pylori bacteria.

Triple Therapy

Treatment generally involves a combination of the use of antibiotics, acid suppressors, and stomach protectors. A two-week course of triple therapy is carried out with a combination of any two antibiotics and an acid suppressor or a stomach protector.

The advantage

It helps to eliminate the symptoms of an ulcer, kills the bacteria and prevents the recurrence of the ulcer in nearly 90% of those undergoing treatment.

The disadvantage

The patients have to take as many as 20 pills a day over the course of two weeks. Also, they cause side effects like vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, metallic taste in the mouth, and dizziness in both men and women and yeast formation in women alone.

Other Therapies

A dual therapy that involves the use of an antibiotic and an acid suppressor over the course of two weeks is found to be moderately effective. Quadruple therapy that involves the use of two antibiotics, an acid suppressor and a stomach-lining protector over the course of two weeks looks most promising. This also called bismuth triple therapy.

Prevention of H. pylori

Studies on understanding the exact cause of an H. pylori infection are still inconclusive. Also, there is no vaccine presently that can prevent an H. pylori infection. The testing using both classical and recombinant H. pylori antigens in the immunization of mice has been onerous. However, there are ways to prevent it from happening by maintaining personal hygiene.

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet can help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Ensuring that food that is consumed is cleaned and cooked properly also may reduce the risk of infection.
  • Have a drinking water supply that is well treated also prevents the possibility of infection.

Despite the different fool-proof methods by which H. pylori can be detected in the body, there is still no vaccine or no proper understanding of its cause and therefore prevention methods may or may not work. On the bright side, in the treatment of ulcers, if the cause is an H. pylori infection, there are several therapies that work over as short a window as 14 days. The one thing to remember if one is suffering from the serious symptoms described in this article is to never dismiss the possibility of an H. pylori infection. 

Facts

  • H. pylori or Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium found in the stomach that gets its name from its spiral shape. They are responsible for stomach infections, leading to ulcers of the stomach and duodenum and sometimes to cancer as well.

Facts

  • Infections caused by H. pylori are one of the most widespread in the world with nearly two-thirds being infected by it and is very common in the United States
  • It causes more than 80% of stomach ulcers and up to 90% of duodenal ulcers.

Facts

  • Before 1982, the year it was first discovered, it was believed that stress, eating acidic or spicy food, and lifestyle choices were the major causes of ulcer.
  • Most people have H. pylori in their stomachs but do not have any related problems like ulcers or cancer.

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Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
DHEA wrinkles
DHEA: Now get unbelievable age defiance with this wonder hormone! DHEA is known popularly as the age-defying hormone. This supplement is widely used to slow down aging and…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
Plexus Slim: Is this pink slimming drink the ultimate one-stop fat burner? How effective is Plexus Slim in helping people lose weight? What are its ingredients? Can it be safely…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Vitamin-D-blood-test
25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a blood test used to measure the level of vitamin D in the…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
liver cleanse detox
14 go-to foods that are best for a complete natural liver detox Liver cleanse can be achieved by just choosing or avoiding certain types of food. Liver itself is a detoxifying…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
free psa test
Free PSA Test The free PSA test is used to detect the level or percentage of free PSA in the body…
HSV-1_IGG
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody & stays in the blood…
AHBC Igm
Anti-Hepatitis B Core Antigen (AHBc) IgM Anti-hepatitis B core antigen (AHBC) IgM is an investigative procedure to detect the presence of IgM antibodies in…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Cottage cheese: What can you find in this healthy chunk of fresh milk cheese? Love cheese but scared of putting on extra pounds? With cottage cheese, you can get the best of…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
11 unbelievable health benefits of thyme you didn’t know! Thyme is a herb that has been used in alternative medicine.It is a well known seasoning in the…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…