What’s H. Pylori?

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Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that can cause ulcers, gastritis, and some stomach and intestinal cancers. It took over 100 years to be associated with these diseases. Australian scientists Warren and Marshall were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research on the bacteria. The bacteria can be identified through blood or breath tests and is treatable with antibiotics. It is contagious and can be found in contaminated food or water. Symptoms should be treated with caution and a doctor should be contacted for testing.

Helicobacter pylori is a variety of bacteria that can cause serious infections and illnesses if present in the stomach. The bacterium is notable in that it has taken over 100 years since its discovery to be associated with the diseases it can cause. Ulcers, gastritis, and some stomach and intestinal cancers can all be caused by Helicobacter pylori infections.

In 1875, German scientists G. Bottcher and M. Letulle suggested that ulcers could be caused by bacteria. They were unable to prove their theory, due to an inability to grow the bacteria they believed was responsible, and their results were largely ignored by the scientific community. Some 20 years later, further support was found by Italian researchers after they discovered a helix-shaped bacterium growing in the stomachs of dogs. Yet, only nearly a century later, the theory was fully studied and developed.

Two Australian scientists, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, began extensive research on bacteria in 1981. Unlike Bottcher and Letulle’s original research, Warren and Marshall were able to successfully culture the bacteria for study. The Australian team’s methods were radical, including an experiment in which Marshall ingested samples of bacteria to see if he would induce stomach problems. The risky experiment was successful, and Marshall and Warren were able to show that the bacteria were also treatable with antibiotics. For their work on the discovery and properties of Helicobacter pylori, Marshall and Warren were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Helicobacter pylori can often be identified through blood or breath tests. An endoscopy may also be performed to confirm the results. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted into the throat and stomach, where samples of the material are obtained. Once the presence of the bacteria is confirmed, a doctor can choose which antibiotic treatment best suits the patient’s needs.

Bacteria are considered to be a cause of many diseases. Peptic and gastric ulcers are often the result of a Helicobacter pylori infection. Chronic dyspepsia that isn’t the result of ulcers can also be caused by bacteria. Some studies suggest that 70-90% of stomach cancers are caused by Helicobacter pylori infections. Despite these scary diseases, many people who have bacteria in their stomachs have no symptoms and may not experience any problems at all.

Helicobacter pylori enters the system in various ways. It is a contagious bacteria that can be found in contaminated food or water. Some studies also suggest that it can be transmitted through oral contact, such as kissing, from an infected person to an uninfected person. Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment can help avoid contamination. Some estimates suggest that around 4 billion people, or two-thirds of the population, are infected with the bacterium.
If you experience frequent stomach pains, heartburn, or constant vomiting, experts recommend contacting a doctor regarding testing for Helicobacter pylori. Although the vast majority of those who have the bacteria are asymptomatic, unusual stomach-related symptoms should be treated with caution. Many strains of bacteria are treatable with antibiotics, which can stop an infection before it has a chance to cause further problems.

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