A Common Stomach Bacteria

Helicobacter pylori (hell-ee-ko-back-ter pie-lore-ee), or H. pylori, is a bacterium that can cause infection in the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum). The bacteria’s spiral shape helps them to wind their way into the stomach’s sticky mucus lining and lodge there.1 Protected from the harsh gastric juices, H. pylori can live in the stomach for many years.

2/3 of the world's adult population is infected with H. pylori.2

Two-thirds of the world’s adult population is infected with H. pylori.2

H. pylori infection is a common chronic infection found throughout the world. Most people contract H. pylori when they are children and, if left untreated, the infection can last a lifetime.3 In most cases there are no symptoms, so many people can have an infection without ever knowing it. Those that do experience symptoms could be suffering from other conditions linked to an H. pylori infection.

Your Gut’s Reaction to an H. pylori Infection

When the bacteria lodge in the stomach lining, they start to produce substances that thin and weaken the protective mucus. This allows gastric acid to reach the stomach’s wall and cause damage. Ulcers can develop in the exposed lining as a result.

H. pylori infection

H. pylori can also attach to the stomach’s cells.3 This sometimes results in issues like stomach inflammation (gastritis) or excess acid production. Recent studies have linked H. pylori infection with an increased risk of developing certain stomach cancers.12

Symptoms of H. pylori Infection

Many times, people who are infected with H. pylori don’t experience symptoms. If they do occur they can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Burning
  • Passing gas
  • Gnawing pain
  • Bloating
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Belching
  • Loss of appetite

Treatments for H. pylori Infection

Like many other infections, antibiotics are used to treat H. pylori. Sometimes certain antibiotics are less effective because the bacteria have developed a resistance. To help combat this, multiple varieties of antibiotics are prescribed at the same time.

H. pylori can be a persistent infection that may take more than 1 round of treatment to cure, so testing again 4 weeks after finishing the treatment will help you feel confident that the infection is gone.

Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1327-1337. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0401/p1327.html. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Helicobacter pylori. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/ulcer/files/hpfacts.pdf. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Elitsur Y, Tolia V, Gilger MA, et al. Urea breath test in children: the United States prospective, multicenter study. Helicobacter. 2009;14(2):134-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19298341. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Helicobacter pylori and Cancer Fact Sheet. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/h-pylori-cancer. Sept 15, 2013. Accessed Oct 10, 2014

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