Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a Gram-negative spiral-shaped bacterium that is found in the stomach of affected individuals. H. pylori infection is one of the most common bacterial infections, and it is estimated that about half of the world’s population carries the pathogen.
The infection can often be asymptomatic, but in some cases it can cause gastrointestinal abnormalities, including the development of stomach and duodenal ulcers and an increased risk of gastric (stomach) cancer. Between 90 and 95 per cent of people with duodenal ulcers and 70 to 90 per cent of people with gastric ulcers are positive for H. pylori. The risk of gastric cancer is increased by a factor of 3 to 5 compared to H. pylori negative people.
Transmission and spread
H. pylori is primarily transmitted through direct personal contact between people, whereas transmission most often occurs through the oral-facial route or through direct oral contact, for example through the use of oral hygiene utensils, cutlery, cups, glasses, cutlery, etc. from an infected person. It can easily occur between immediate family members or between people living in the same household.
Symptoms and diagnosis
H. pylori infection can be asymptomatic; thus, many infected people are unaware that they have the bacteria in their body. H. pylori infection does not in itself mean that you will become sick, but it can contribute to the development of various symptoms and diseases by accelerating environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors. If symptoms occur, they can usually include the following:
- stomach pain
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- bad breath
- ulcers in the stomach or duodenum
There are several methods for diagnosing H. pylori infection, and the appropriate method is chosen by the doctor on the basis of the individual clinical symptoms and any co-morbidities.
The most common diagnostic methods are:
- Blood test: Antibodies against Helicobacter pylori can be detected in the blood.
- Stool test: This method is used to detect the presence of H. pylori antigen in the stool.
- Breath test: This is a rapid, painless test that can detect the presence of H. pylori in the body.
- Gastroscopy and biopsy: Gastroscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a camera into the stomach through the mouth. This method allows direct observation of the condition of the stomach lining and the possibility of taking a tissue sample (biopsy). The histological examination can detect the presence of H. pylori and the degree of inflammation.
Based on the medical history, symptoms and the results of the physical examination, the doctor decides which diagnostic method is the most appropriate in a particular case. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help avoid long-term complications of infection and the development of gastrointestinal problems.
Eradication of H.pylori bacteria is always performed with a combination of medicines. The most common treatment method is a three-component therapy, in which two antibiotics and an acid-reducing drug are prescribed for a certain period of time. The duration of the treatment is usually 7–14 days, with the dosage and timing of the medication is prescribed by the doctor. It is important that the patient completes the full treatment cycle, even if they have already noticed an improvement in symptoms. Improperly completed antibiotic therapy can develop resistance in the bacteria, making subsequent treatment more difficult.
A follow-up examination is recommended after 6-12 weeks of the treatment to check the effectiveness of the therapy. The follow-up examination (i.e. control testing) is usually performed by urea breath test. With an appropriate treatment, complete eradication of H. pylori infection is possible in most patients; thus, reducing the risk of gastric cancer and other gastrointestinal abnormalities. In addition to drug therapy, attention should be paid to good diet, avoiding spicy foods and large amounts of coffee and alcohol.
In terms of prevention, there are no specific methods to avoid H. pylori infection. However, hygiene practices (such as thorough hand washing) can help reduce the risk of infection. Pay particular attention to hand disinfection in public places such as schools, train stations, hospitals, etc.
H. pylori infection can lead to serious gastrointestinal disorders, but in many cases it can be asymptomatic. Diagnosis and appropriate treatment are important, as untreated infection can lead to more serious abnormalities in the long term. If someone is experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice so that H. pylori infection can be detected and treated in time.
Laboratory tests at HR-Pharma Ltd.:
- Stool H. Pylori infection test: detects the presence of H. pylori antigen in the stool.
- Helicobacter pylori infection serology package: used to detect antibodies. (If IgM is high, it indicates the initial stage of infection. If IgG is high, it indicates a longer history of infection. IgA is rare, but if high, it indicates a higher stage of inflammation.