10 Interesting Facts about Helicobacter Pylori Infection
1. Self – contamination leads to Nobel prize
H.pylori was discovered by two Australian scientists Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren. Marshall thought that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria. He failed to infect lab animals and in frustration decided to drink liquid containing Helicobacter pylori bacteria. He then promptly came down with gastritis. He was furiously criticized by gastroenterologists, especially for treating gastric ulcers with antibiotics. After a couple of decades, in 2005 Marshall got the Nobel Prize in Medicine, sharing the award with his colleague J. Robin Warren.
2. Connection between H.pylori and gastritis
For decades medical students were taught that gastric ulcers were caused by stress and poor diet. It was thought that bacterium could not survive in the acidic environment. But Australian scientists have completely changed this attitude. Nowadays every doctor knows that 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine) ulcers develop because of Helicobacter pylori. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, diclofenac, indomethacin, ketoprofen and other), alcohol, chemicals, parasitic infection, gastritis associated with systemic diseases (sarcoidosis, Crohn diseases and other) have less significance than H.pylori in the development of gastritis.
3. How does H.pylori infection spread?
Like every other infection H.pylori has many ways to spread. So we can surely say thatH.pylori infection is contagious. The most common routes of infection are oral-oral or fecal-oral, iatrogenic spread (using unsterile pH probes and endoscopes) and spreading by flies. That is why third world countries have higher population colonization with H.pylori than better developed ones.
4. A lifelong disease begins in childhood
In general, the infection develops at a young age. When children gain H.pylori, the infection is usually asymptomatic and in some children causes acute gastritis. Usually no specific diagnostic methods are used, so infection remains undiagnosed. Later manifestations begin in adulthood under some provocative factors such as stress, unhealthy diet, alcohol, caffeine and other.
5. How does H.pylori survive in stomach?
Many people wonder how bacteria can last in stomach and remain undigested. The answer lies in many complex self – preservation processes of bacteria. The spiral – shaped bacteria can penetrate stomach’s protective mucous lining and attach to epithelium (tissue that lines the stomach cavity). Moreover, they produce urease which protects bacteria from gastric acid and leads to ulcer formation. H.pylori produces many other enzymes which also take part in malignant transformation (development of cancer) and reduce the immune response to infection.
6. Unusual diagnostic procedures
Imaging tests such as esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD –esophagus and stomach observation technique), computer tomography, radiography are not very helpful in diagnostic process. EGD is more useful because a doctor can take a biopsy (a bit of stomach epithelium for investigation) and find bacteria in it. But the most interesting and exclusive tests are done in laboratories. They are H.pylorifecal antigen test, carbon 13 urea breath test and H.pylori serology. H.pylorifecal antigen test is based on using antibodies to find H.pylori (the antigen which is bound by antibodies) in stool samples. Carbon 13 urea breath test is a catchy one. Patients have to drink urea containing carbon 13 isotopes and concentration of the labelled carbon is measured in exhaled air. During serological testing laboratory assistant is looking for antibodies against H.pylori in the blood. This method could be useful to observe the patient after H.pylori eradication.
7. What diseases can H.pylori cause?
H.pylori causes pathology associated mainly with stomach. This includes gastritis (inflammation of stomach), peptic ulcers (epithelium defects caused by excessive gastric acid production), gastric adenocarcinoma (tumour at the site of the peptic ulcer) and lymphoma (also called MALT lymphoma is a kind of tumour of mucosa linings in the human body).
8. Can H.pylori prevent autoinflammatory diseases?
It is widely known that people in poor countries have less autoimmune diseases but more infectious ones. The organism is then less sensitive to his own proteins and is more susceptible to those from the outside. So some researchers claim that infectious diseases (including H.pylori infection) can prevent from developing autoinflammatorydisorders.
9. Link between Helicobacter pylori and dementia
Scientists found that among people with dementia, 65 % have H.pylori infection and dementia prevalence was higher in the infected group of people. After numerous investigations of various risk factors (age, sex, educational level and other) they stated that H.pylori is an independent risk factor for developing dementia. It is interpreted that the bacterium leads to faster neurodegeneration (devolution of brain cells) processes which are the cause of dementia.
10. Is it difficult to eliminate H.pylori infection?
The elimination of Helicobacter pylori infection is called eradication. It is performed with antibiotics and acidity reducing medication. Using only one drug is not enough. If you want to get rid of H.pylori, you have to take a long treatment including 3 drugs and if the treatment is not successful than more and different drugs should be prescribed. Usually doctors prescribe proton pomp inhibitors (to low acidity) and two types of antibiotics (ex. Amoxicillin and clarithromycin) for seven days.