Helicobacter pylori infection is a common condition which affects about half of the world’s population. H.pylori is a helix-shaped gram-negative bacterium that requires oxygen in low concentrations to thrive. Respectively, this bacterium dwells and reproduces in the stomach and duodenum. It attaches to the mucous cells of the stomach, causing the production of proinflammatory substances and infiltration of the mucous membrane with the leukocytes. Consequently, gastric inflammation develops.
The chronic inflammatory reaction may in the future damage the stomach lining and eventually lead to the development of gastric or duodenal cancer. However, not all of the infected individuals become symptomatic. As a matter of fact they may even have no idea that they are infected for a long time. Of note, Helicobacter pylori infection spreads via oral-to-oral, fecal-to-oral contact, contaminated food or water.
A person is more likely to get infected in childhood if he/she:
- lives in crowded conditions (a lot of people live in a home together);
- has no reliable supply of clean water;
- comes from a developing country (due to crowded and unsanitary living conditions);
- lives with someone who has a Hekicobacter pylori infection.
Acute upper gastrointestinal illness
Accidental acquisition of H.pylori may result in the development of acute upper gastrointestinal illness. Soon after the acquisition occurs severe gastritis. As the result, a person experiences nausea, upper abdominal pain, sometimes vomiting, burping and fever, which last 3 to 14 days. Nevertheless, acquisition of the bacteria is not necessarily associated with acute symptomatic. Anyway, the proportion of symptomatic and asymptomatic acquisition remains unknown.
Persistent Helicobacter pylori infection
H.pylori typically persists for many years in the stomach of the infected person, although not everyone exposed to the bacteria become persistently colonized. As a rule, persistent Helicobacter pylori infection remains asymptomatic. In some individuals upper gastrointestinal symptoms are present, despite the fact that there the mucous membrane seem unchanged during endoscopy. So-called functional or nonulcer dyspepsia may present with upper abdominal discomfort or pain (sometimes relieved by food), nausea, belching and an early feeling of fullness.
Approximately 80% of duodenal ulcers and 60% of gastric ulcers are associated with H. pylori infection.
- An ache or burning pain in the abdomen;
- Abdominal discomfort or pain that worsens when the stomach is empty;
- Foul breath (halitosis);
- Loss of appetite (anorexia);
- Frequent burping;
- Unintentional and unexplained weight loss;
- Bloody or black-colored feces (so-called tar-like stools) or vomit due to the bleeding of the ulcer;
H.pylori infection is associated with the increased risk of adenocarcinoma of the distal part of the stomach. Gastric lymphomas occur less often.
The symptoms suggestive of stomach cancer include the following:
- Stomach pain;
- Blood in the stool;
- Constipation or diarrhea;
- Disgust for meat;
- Loss of appetite;
- Loss of weight;
- Weakness, general malaise;
Complications of Helicobacter pylori infection
The complications associated with persistent H.pylori infection include:
- internal bleeding characterized by tar-like stool or vomiting with the black vomit;
- obstruction caused by an ulcer blocking the food passage;
- perforation when an ulcer breaks through the stomach wall;
- peritonitis when the abdominal cavity or its lining is infected;