Table of contents
What is an H. pylori infection?
H. pylori, also called Helicobacter pylorus, is a bacterium that can cause infection to the stomach and duodenum. It is considered to be the most common cause of peptic ulcer disease. It can cause inflammation and irritation to the stomach lining (gastritis) and rarely cause cancer.
The exact cause of H. pylori infections is still unknown. It is believed that these bacteria have co-existed with humans for millennia. The bacteria are usually passed on from one person to another by direct contact with saliva, fecal, or vomit. It is also known to be spread through contaminated water or food.
What are the risk factors for H. pylori?
Kids are the most affected by this infection. However, these are the risk factors:
- Greater risk of getting the infection if they live in crowded places
- Having an unreliable supply of clean water can raise the risk
- Living in developing countries can also raise the risk
- Someone who has H. pylori infection can also increase the risk.
Though most people do not show any signs of the infection, these are a few of the symptoms of H.pylori infection:
- Burning pain or ache in the abdomen
- Worse abdominal pain (Especially when your stomach is empty)
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent burping
- Unintentional weight loss
How is H. pylori diagnosed and treated?
H. pylori usually involves the following treatment procedures:
Prior to the Treatment: Diagnosis of H. pylori
- To diagnose the infection, the doctor will perform a blood test. This will reveal the evidence of either an active or sometimes a previous H. pylori infection in the body. However, a breath test and a stool test are sometimes better at detecting H. pylori active infections than a blood test.
- Urea breath test: A breath test is carried out, where the doctor will ask the patient to swallow a pill or liquid or, at times, pudding that contains carbon-tagged molecules. In case the patient has an infection of H. pylori, carbon is released when the solution is mainly broken down in the stomach.
- Stool test: A stool antigen test is taken to detect foreign proteins or antigens associated with H. pylori infection in the stool. Unlike the breath test, PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) and bismuth subsalicylate can mostly affect the results of stool tests. Hence, in most cases, the doctor will ask the patient to stop taking these medications two weeks before the test.
- Upper endoscopy: During this procedure, the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube and camera into the stomach and duodenum to look for abnormalities in the stomach and intestine wall.
- Biopsy: At the time of endoscopy, the doctor will look for any signs of abnormalities in the wall or lining of the stomach and intestine. In case the doctor finds any abnormal tissue, then a small tissue sample (biopsy) is taken from an abnormal area and sent for histopathological studies for further evaluation and to confirm the infection.
During the Treatment:
- Antibiotics: To treat H. pylori infections, the doctor will put the patient on at least two different antibiotics. Combination treatment is usually advised for 14 days.
- This will help prevent the bacteria from developing resistance, especially to one particular antibiotic.
- Most of the time, the doctor will also prescribe or maybe, at times, recommend an acid-suppressing drug to heal the stomach lining.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Drugs like PPIs or proton pump inhibitors are given to stop acid from being produced in the stomach
- Histamine or H2 blockers are also provided through which they can block histamine, which triggers acid production.
- Bismuth sub salicylate: Another drug named Bismuth subsalicylate is recommended by the doctor, which works to protect from stomach acid
What are the complications associated with H. pylori infection?
Some of the complications associated with H.pylori are as follows:
- Internal bleeding that can lead to peptic ulcers
- Tumor blocks in the stomach
- Tear (perforation) in the stomach
- Peritonitis in the abdomen lining
- Stomach cancer
- Inflammation of stomach lining
Can H. pylori be prevented?
These are a few ways to keep the H.pylori infection at bay:
- Wash the hands frequently, especially after the use of the bathroom
- Avoid food or sometimes water that is not clean.
- Do not eat anything that is not well cooked thoroughly.
- Always avoid the types of food served by people who don’t maintain proper hygiene.
H. pylori is usually passed on to other people mostly by contaminated food or poor hygiene factors. And it is contagious.
Helicobacter pylori usually cause gastritis as well as stomach cancer.
It is the inflammation of the stomach lining, and H. pylori bacteria can usually cause gastritis.
It is the first-line therapy with an oral proton pump which is given twice daily for two weeks for helicobacter pylori eradication.
Probiotics, cranberry, garlic, and flavonoids can help cure stomach ulcers permanently.
H. pylori bacterium generally multiplies in the mucus layer of the stomach and duodenum. These bacteria secrete an enzyme called urease that converts urea to ammonia. The ammonia produced protects the bacteria from gastric acid. As H. pylori multiplies, it destroys the stomach (gastric) tissue causing gastritis or gastric (stomach) ulcers.
Unfortunately, no vaccine has been found for H. pylori infection. However, clinical trials are going on regarding vaccination.
Most people have the bacteria their entire lives and remain asymptomatic (no symptoms), while in a few people, it can lead to serious complications if left untreated. These may include stomach cancer, bleeding, severe gastritis, etc. In comparison, people diagnosed and treated early have an excellent prognosis. The eradication rate of H. pylori infection is high when FDA-approved antibiotics are used. The recovery rate is higher in antibiotics combined with PPIs or acid reducers.