H Pylori is one of the most common infections in the world
Helicobacter pylori, commonly known as stomach bacteria, is a kind of spiral-shaped bacteria (hence its name “helico”) able to infect the stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine), which may induce the appearance of ulcers.
Many studies say that currently between 50 and 65% of human world population have this infection, which makes it one of the most common infections in the world, and more than 90% of people with stomach and duodenal ulcers have it.
The mode of transmission of H. pylori is still uncertain (although numerous studies have been done to determine it); however, humans are considered the only “reservoir” of this kind of bacteria, because many people can be infected without having symptoms (asymptomatic carriers) but they can transmit this bacteria to other people.
Likewise, the most accepted modes of transmission are fecal-oral, gastro-oral, oral-oral, and gastro-gastric. The fecal-oral mode means that H. pylori can be excreted through the feces and colonize the water, food, and surfaces touched by infected people (if they do not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom), so when a healthy person drinks the infected water, eats the infected food, or touches the infected surfaces, he/she can get infected.
The oral-oral mode of transmission refers to the possibility to be transmitted through the direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, for example, through kissing on the lips or sharing glasses of water with an infected person.
The gastro-oral mode of transmission is less frequent because to produce it is necessary that a person gets in touch with the infected cells of the gastric mucous membrane (usually present in the vomitus). Finally, the gastro-gastric theory is even less common, this theory says that a healthy person can get infected during an endoscopic procedure if the required equipment was not well disinfected after it was used in an infected person.
For many years, specialists in diseases of the digestive system considered that gastric and duodenal ulcers happened due to unhealthy lifestyle habits like having a lot of stress, eating spicy foods frequently, smoking, among others. However, many recent studies have shown that H. pylori is the responsible for most gastric and duodenal bacteria (although these other factors may help).
When H. pylori gets into the body, it can damage the cells present in the stomach and duodenum lining. Once this lining disappears, the acid formed in the stomach to digest food attacks the stomach and duodenum walls (now unprotected) which leads to ulcers formation.
Although in many cases H. pylori infection can be asymptomatic and harmless, if this infection is not treated, it can evolve from ulcers to cancer in the stomach or duodenum, so once it is confirmed, it must be treated in all cases (in some cases, the family of the infected person also should be treated as prevention).
Nowadays there are many methods to diagnose the H. pylori infection, and each of them is used according to the conditions and needs of the patient. Some diagnostic methods are very easy to be performed (such as a stool examination or a blood test), but in other cases, more invasive diagnostic methods are necessary, such as a breath or a scope test (endoscopy).