Helicobacter pylori causes an inflammation of the stomach mucous membrane known as chronic gastritis, which may remain stable for years or develop into gastric mucosal atrophy (atrophic gastritis).
What is a H. pylori infection?
H. pylori infections are common, though steadily decreasing in Western countries as hygiene standards improve. The infection is typically acquired in childhood.
At present, about 15-20% of people aged between 20 and 30 are infected. A quarter of those aged between 30 and 50 and over half of people aged over 70 carry the bacteria. In developed countries, 80% are infected by the bacterium, and in China, the figure is as high as 90%.
H. pylori may in itself cause cancer. It can also destroy the stomach mucous membrane, thus exposing the stomach to carcinogenic substances.
Risks associated with H. pylori
The bacteria efficiently produce acetaldehyde from alcohol contained in food. Acetaldehyde has been classified by the WHO as a carcinogenic substance.
Symptoms of H. pylori
The infection is usually asymptomatic. In some people, it may cause an inflammation of the stomach mucous membrane that may result in an increased risk of peptic ulcer.
It has been suspected that H. pylori may also cause upper abdominal discomfort also in patients without peptic ulcer. However, this link is yet to be clearly demonstrated.
An inflammation of the stomach mucous membrane caused by H. pylori may remain stable for years, or it can slowly cause the stomach to lose some or all of its acidity. An anacidic stomach is a significant risk factor in gastric cancer.
Several methods of testing are used to diagnose H. pylori. The GastroPanel test is an easy way to check for H. pylori infection and test your stomach’s health and level of gastric acid secretion.
H. pylori increases the risk of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer.