Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that grows in the stomach and can cause chronic inflammation such as gastritis or lead to ulcers.
Up until 1982, it was believed that no bacteria can survive the acidic environment of the stomach. It was then that Australian scientists Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered H. pylori in patients suffering from gastritis and ulcers.
Its spiral shape, which also gave the bacteria’s name (from the Latin “helix”), helps it pass through the protective layer of the stomach’s lining. In addition to easily adapting to the acidic environment, H. pylori is also able to affect the production of acid and weaken the lining of the stomach, making it more vulnerable.
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?
H. pylori infections are among the most common in the world and people usually get infected in early childhood. The bacteria can be found in human saliva and feces and it can be transmitted by airborne droplets, through contaminated food or water, contaminated utensils, or poor hygiene.
Although H. pylori is resilient and can survive years in the human body, most people infected with the bacteria don’t have any symptoms and don’t develop ulcers.
How does H. pylori cause damage?
After entering the body, the bacteria targets the protective layer of the stomach’s lining. By producing a substance called urease, it successfully manages to neutralize the acidic conditions of the stomach. H. pylori can move around using flagella, which help attach it to the stomach’s lining.
The toxins released by the bacteria can cause significant damage to the tissue of the stomach’s lining and can lead to the development of gastritis or ulcers.
Long-term H. pylori infections are also associated with stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms of H. pylori infections?
Although most people infected with H. pylori don’t experience any symptoms, in some cases the infection can lead to more serious conditions such as the development of ulcers. Symptoms can include:
Loss of appetite
If left untreated, the damage to the lining of the stomach and small intestine caused by this condition can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. This is why early diagnosis and treatment in cases of a confirmed H. pylori infection is so important.