Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) is a type of bacteria which can be communicated between humans. After invading the human body, they reside in the digestive tract especially stomach and cause peptic inflammation. In most cases, the infection shows no symptoms. But some patients may develop ulcers in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, which occasionally leads to stomach cancer. H.pylori infection can be found around the world, infecting about 50% of the world’s population. The infection rate in developing countries is higher than that in developed countries due to different hygienic practices. In the case of Thailand, the prevalence of H.pylori infection is about 40%.
Risk factors of H.pylori infection
H.pylori infection results from consumption of food or water contaminated by feces of the infected persons. The bacteria will reside in the stomach or the most upper part of the small intestine called the duodenum, as it is the part that directly receives the food from the stomach. The bacteria produces enzymes and toxins that directly and indirectly affect the stomach and duodenum. As a result, the gastric acid and gastric juice irritate the stomach and duodenum tissues so strongly that it causes chronic inflammation. The chronic inflammation leads to a higher risk of chronic ulcers. The risk of chronic ulcers in the infected person is approximately 6-40 times higher than that of a non-infected person. The infection is commonly found in highly populated communities or among members of the same family.
Without the proper and timely treatment, an infected person is 2-6 times more likely to develop stomach cancer. The infection test is recommended for persons possibly having peptic ulcers, persons with infection history or persons who have family history of stomach cancer, and persons with high risk of stomach cancer, especially Chinese, Korean and Japanese, as the rate of stomach cancer in these countries is relatively high.
Although Helicobacter Pylori infection is commonly found among persons suffering peptic ulcers, not all cases of peptic ulcers are caused by Helicobacter Pylori infection. Another main cause of peptic ulcers is thrombolytic agents, such as aspirin, clopidogrel, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
Helicobacter Pylori infection test can be performed through many methods:
Helicobacter Pylori infection is widely diagnosed by endoscopy and biopsy which remove some tissues for laboratory test. The urea breath test is another diagnostic technique to identify Helicobacter Pylori infection.
Persons with some particular digestive tract disorder or persons who link with the risk factors that are mentioned previously are recommended to take the Helicobacter Pylori infection test or annual health check-up to prevent the illness or silent danger hidden in your stomach.
After elimination of Helicobacter Pylori, the peptic ulcers can be permanently cured. The treatment can relieve the suffering from stomach disease, heal peptic ulcers and reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Dr. Thapanakul Emyoo Gastroenterologist Praram 9 Hospital