Helicobacter Pylori

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What is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)?

Named for its spiral shape, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a kind of bacteria that can live in the stomach. By secreting enzymes that neutralise the acidity of gastric acid, H. Pylori can survive in highly acidic environments while parasitising on the surface of the human gastric mucosal layer or in the duodenum without getting killed. Some of the substances secreted by H. pylori will further damage the protective function of the gastric mucosa and stimulate more gastric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby inducing gastritis, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, and even gastric cancer. The International Cancer Research Agency has also listed H. pylori as a Class I carcinogen. 

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What are the symptoms of H. pylori infection?

More than half of the people in Asia are infected with H. pylori. However, as most carriers do not show any obvious symptoms, it is generally quite difficult for patients to realise that they have been infected. In fact, the bacteria can become latent for many years before causing inflammation of the stomach when the patients' immunity has weakened.

If the disease continues to progress and causes chronic gastritis, patients will develop symptoms such as bloating, frequent burping, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, and weight loss. As these symptoms are similar to those of gastric diseases caused by other factors, patients may easily overlook their importance. However, recurrent inflammation of the stomach can lead to gastric or duodenal ulcers. In the worst-case scenario, it may even lead to stomach cancer.

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How does H. pylori spread?

Currently, the exact causes and transmission methods of H. pylori infection are still unknown. However, it is estimated that the bacteria are transmitted through saliva, body fluids, food, faeces, etc. If someone in the family is infected with H. pylori and is used to sharing food with his/her family members, he/she may cause cross-infection of the bacteria among the family members through saliva. Thus, people living with patients are also recommended to undergo H. pylori testing. 

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How to diagnose if someone has been infected with H. pylori?

Common diagnostic methods for H. pylori include gastroscopy, urea breath test, etc. When a patient is diagnosed as a carrier, the doctor will usually recommend bactericidal treatment for one to two weeks. To eradicate the H. pylori bacteria, patients need to follow the doctor's instructions in completing the entire treatment. 

​Last Updated : July 2020

Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.

Helicobacter Pylori

 

 

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Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.
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