The spiral-shaped bacteria H. pylori (helicobacter pylori) is associated with causing gastrointestinal disorders, while in more severe cases the infection can lead to ulcers or gastritis. For more than 40 years now, H. pylori is well-known to medicine as the main cause of chronic gastritis, a condition that affects the stomach’s lining.
If you think you might have an H. pylori infection, you can test yourself with the H. pylori Antigen Rapid Rest Kit.
How is H. pylori transmitted?
Since H. pylori is found in human saliva or feces, person-to-person contact is a common way of spreading the bacteria. Poor hygiene, contaminated food and water, and overcrowded living conditions are the main contributors to the spread of H. pylori. People usually get infected in early childhood, which is why regularly washing one’s hands, especially after using the toilet, is so important both among children and adults.
H. pylori has the ability to adapt to the highly acidic environment in the stomach by producing a substance that neutralizes stomach acid. In this way the bacteria can survive in the human body for years.
Although it is one of the most common bacteria in the world, most people infected with H. pylori never experience any symptoms.
There are several factors that can contribute to one’s susceptibility to H. pylori. On the one hand, genetic predisposition plays a role. On the other hand, lifestyle factors such as smoking and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase the risk of infection. Long-term infection with the bacteria can lead to inflammation, erosion of the stomach’s lining, and the development of ulcers.
Different tests for H. pylori
If you think you might have an H. pylori infection, there are established diagnostic methods such as breath tests, blood tests, stool tests, and biopsies. Thanks to these methods, medical professionals can determine the presence of an H. pylori infection in the digestive tract, assess whether the symptoms are actually caused by the bacteria, as well as gauge whether the chosen treatment has been effective in combating an existing infection.
When conducting a breath test, the patient first takes a tablet or solution containing a substance that the bacteria is able to break down. If an H. pylori infection is indeed present, the substance will be converted into carbon dioxide. Therefore, this test measures the level of carbon dioxide when exhaling.
The purpose of blood tests is to detect antibodies produced as a response to an infection with H. pylori. However, this type of test is considered as the least reliable in detecting the presence of the bacteria.
By taking a small feces sample, this test examines the presence of H. pylori antigens that trigger an immune response against the infection.
If the results of these tests are inconclusive, the attending physician may also decide to carry out a gastroscopy to obtain biopsy.