H. pylori – Who should be tested?

by Ramalinga Kedika

 

As seen in the Odessa American’s Medical Matters:

http://www.oaoa.com/people/health/medical_matters/article_846c9ea8-03c1-11e8-844a-176e0df84d1a.html

 

Did you know there is a stomach infection present in approximately half of the world’s population? That infection is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori for short.

Signs and symptoms of H. pylori

Most people with H. pylori will never have signs and symptoms and therefore routine screening is not needed in the United States. Some people will have stomach symptoms including pain, nausea, poor appetite, burping/belching, bloating and/or weight loss. It is these patients that should be tested for H. pylori infection by their healthcare provider.

Long-term complications

Some of the long-term complications of infection include stomach and intestinal ulcers, irritation of the stomach lining (gastritis) and stomach cancer. It should be noted that the presence of H. pylori infection combined with excess over-the-counter NSAID (Motrin, Advil, etc.) use will significantly increase your risk of developing ulcers. It is a common misconception that stress alone is a cause of ulcers!

How do people get infected with H. pylori?

The exact way is not known, but most people acquire the infection in their childhood. What we do know are the risk factors for infection. These include living in crowded conditions, lack of clean water, living in a developing country and living with someone who has the infection.

How is H. pylori diagnosed?

  1. pylori can be diagnosed in multiple ways. The easiest way for patients is often a breath test that can be done at most laboratories. Other ways include a stool test or upper endoscopy (scope test into the stomach) with biopsy. If diagnosed, H. pylori should be treated with a 10 to 14 day regimen of antibiotics and acid reducers.

One interesting historical tidbit. In 1984, scientist Barry Marshall drank a Petri dish containing H. pylori to help show that the infection caused gastritis and ulcers. For this, Marshall and his colleague Robin Warren earned the Nobel Prize in 2005!