Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that lives on the mucous membrane of the stomach and duodenum and causes inflammation and damage. It is the main cause of chronic gastritis, gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers, and stomach cancer.
Its’ causative agent is a unique pathogenic microaerophilic gram-negative bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). The bacterium got its name from the pyloric section of the stomach in which it lives. As a result of its’ activity, H. pylori forms a “cloud” of an alkaline (low acid) environment around itself, which allows this bacterium to survive in the aggressive acidic environment of the stomach, causing accelerated secretion of hydrochloric acid, as well as a decrease in the secretion of alkaline juices in the duodenum. The microorganism colonizes the mucous membrane even more strongly and provokes inflammation, leading to the development of ulcerative lesions.
Helicobacter pylori: causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Helicobacter pylori is a helical bacterium 3.5 microns long and 0.5 microns wide. It has flagella, with the help of which it moves freely along the wall of the stomach or is securely fixed on it. The H. pylori bacterium is very variable, its strains (varieties) differ from each other in their ability to attach to the gastric mucosa, cause inflammation and have varying degrees of pathogenicity.
Helicobacter pylori is one of the most common chronic human infections.
Contrary to common misconception, Helicobacter pylori is not a harmless microorganism. If it is present, chronic gastritis always develops, which can lead to the development of gastric ulcers and gastric cancer in the future.
What symptoms can be caused by chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa-associated with Helicobacter pylori?
- Pain and discomfort in the stomach area
- Heaviness in the stomach after eating
- Nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite
- Vomiting of blood and dark stools (due to bleeding ulcers)
Helicobacter pylori, colonizing the gastric mucosa, is a common cause of its inflammatory changes, it is recognized as the etiological factor of gastritis, and gastritis itself is an infectious disease. Depending on the state of the protective factors of the stomach, the emerging infectious process can proceed latently or with severe clinical symptoms of inflammation. The current understanding is that H. pylori cause chronic gastritis in many but not all infected individuals. This can lead to peptic ulcer disease, atrophic gastritis, gastric adenocarcinoma, or poorly differentiated gastric lymphoma. The results of numerous studies suggest a possible pathogenetic role of H. pylori infection in the development and/or course of diseases not related to digestion: cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, autoimmune diseases, diseases of the blood, skin, nervous system, and many others. The pathogen is relatively resistant to the environment: when boiling, Helicobacteria die almost instantly, when treated with disinfectants – within a few minutes.
Causes of Helicobacter
One can get infected with h. Pylori by contact with contaminated water or food. Infection is possible during endoscopy and when using other poorly sterilized medical instruments that have had direct contact with the patient’s gastric mucosa. Domestic transmission (for example, through kissing, personal belongings, etc.) is also possible, as evidenced by the release of bacteria from saliva and plaque. The prevalence of infection varies with geographic region, patient age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Classification of diseases
Diseases associated with H. pylori:
- stomach ulcer,
- duodenal ulcer,
- iron-deficiency anemia of unknown origin,
- stomach cancer,
- duodenal cancer.
Symptoms of Helicobacter pylori
The main manifestation of Helicobacter pylori is a chronic inflammation of the stomach. In the case of a rapid primary manifestation of the pathogen, the acute period of helicobacteriosis lasts about 10 days. The general condition of patients usually remains satisfactory, sometimes there is a short-term low-grade fever and decreased performance. The main complaint with which patients with signs of Helicobacter infection go to the doctor is stomach pain. The localization of the symptom can change and go to the area of the duodenum. Pains are sharp, aching, dull, occur in the upper abdomen on the left and in the center in the umbilical region. Discomfort can occur during prolonged fasting, on an empty stomach, or after a certain time after eating.
The symptomatology of helicobacteriosis depends on the clinical form of the disease and may ALSO include:
- feeling of heaviness in the abdomen after eating;
- impaired appetite associated with sudden attacks of nausea (if the stomach lining is severely injured);
- heartburn (burning sensations in the esophagus and even the larynx) and belching with an unpleasant sour or bitter taste;
- chronic constipation (absence of bowel movements for three days or more);
- diarrhea, the appearance of a foamy or watery consistency;
- intestinal cramps and bloating.
With a strong h. Pylori colonization, a number of atypical symptoms may occur, which indicate significant infection and progression of the disease:
- decreased appetite to its complete absence;
- nausea can be replaced by vomiting with blood clots;
- a sharp decrease in body weight, which is not the norm;
- dry mouth and metal taste;
- the appearance of a white coating on the tongue;
- bad breath in the absence of caries;
- cracks in the corners of the mouth;
- bleeding gums.
In the chronic course of the disease and atrophic lesions of the gastric mucosa, signs of iron deficiency anemia appear – frequent headaches and dizziness, pallor of the skin, decreased blood pressure, and tachycardia (high heart rate above 100).
Diagnosis of h. Pylori Infection
For a long time, h. Pylori infection may not manifest itself in any way, while provoking the development of an ulcer or adenocarcinoma of the stomach. People whose relatives have a history of these diseases are in a special risk zone.
In what situations is it important to identify Helicobacter pylori?
- With chronic superficial and atrophic gastritis;
- With exacerbation of gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer;
- If peptic ulcer disease was detected in the past;
- In the case of prolonged use of drugs that reduce the acidity of gastric juice (proton-pump inhibitors);
- With regular use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs);
- If a close relative has stomach cancer;
- If there are some blood disorders (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, iron deficiency anemia with no clear cause).
How can you identify Helicobacter pylori?
There are several diagnostic methods for Helicobacter pylori. The presence of bacteria can be determined with gastroscopy, as well as without it, using a special breath test, blood, and stool tests.
GI MAP Functional stool test shows not only h. Pylori in the stool, but also shows its’ virulence factors and how it affects person’s microbiome and gut health. H.Pylori also may trigger autoimmune diseases and anyone diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis or a different autoimmune disease should be evaluated with a comprehensive functional stool analysis.
How can Helicobacter pylori infection be cured?
For the treatment of Helicobacter pylori, special schemes of 3-5 drugs are prescribed, containing antibiotics. The duration of therapy is usually 10-14 days. Fortunately, there are other more natural and gentle options available for h. Pylori treatment. When choosing a regimen, it is important to take into account the previously completed treatment of Helicobacter pylori, the presence of allergies, previous antibiotics, the use of other drugs or herbal supplements.
What can the destruction of Helicobacter pylori infection help with?
- Eliminate chronic gastritis.
- Stop the progression of atrophy of the gastric mucosa.
- Stop recurring exacerbations of gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer.
- Reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
- Reduce the likelihood of mucosal damage when taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
- Improve blood counts in thrombocytopenic purpura and iron deficiency anemia of unknown etiology.
How to monitor the effectiveness of treatment for H. pylori infection?
Monitoring the effectiveness of treatment should be carried out 1-2 months after the end of therapy. If you need more help figuring out your symptoms or treatment – contact a functional healthcare practitioner.
Treatment of H. pylori in children is a particular problem. The course of the disease in children and adults differs significantly, and therapy WITH antibiotics is not always justified:
- children have fewer clinical manifestations of diseases caused by H. pylori;
- low risk of complications along with a high risk of re-infection;
- not all tests and methods are applicable in pediatric gastroenterology;
- more contraindications to antibacterial/antibiotic drugs, it is more difficult to choose adequate dosage regimens and determine the duration of administration;
- the rapid emergence of resistance of the infectious agent (h.Pylori) to drugs.
GI MAP Functional Stool Test
The Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus (GI MAP) tests for H. pylori using quantitative PCR. The assay is extremely sensitive, detecting H. pylori at as little as 10 organisms per gram of stool. Because the organism is quantified, the test can report the concentration of H. pylori instead of simply a “positive” or a “negative” result. The laboratory has set the reference range as < 1e3 (1000) organisms per gram of stool. Below this level, however, it is still possible for H. pylori to be problematic. This case will review some of the criteria used to determine clinical significance below the reference range.
H. pylori DNA Biopsy Profile offers the latest Real-Time qPCR Molecular Technology. DNA based testing offers significant advantages to other methods. Including testing for Antibiotic Resistance Genes and Virulence Factors.
Patient treatment efficacy is greatly improved with phenotypic antibiotic resistance testing to guide treatment protocols. Virulence Factor testing can help to identify the symptoms that H. pylori is contributing to and potential to cause disease.
The H. pylori Biopsy Analysis Includes:
- Helicobacter pylori
- Antibiotic Resistance Genes, phenotype
- Floroquinolones (Levofloxacin)
Virulence factor testing
- Virulence Factor, babA
- Virulence Factor, cagA
- Virulance Factor, cagPAI
- Virulence Factor, dupA
- Virulence Factor, iceA
- Virulence Factor, oipA
- Virulence Factor, vacA
My daughter’s stool test a couple of months surprised me a lot. Even though I tested a year ago and she was not infected with h.Pylori, this year, she showed not only h. Pylori on GI MAP stool test, but also major microbiome disturbance and decrease in the function of the pancreas as for its’ ability to produce pancreatic enzymes for food digestion. She also developed high intestinal permeability (aka “Leaky Gut”) as evidenced by high zonulin and gluten intolerance. The functional stool test analysis helped me to pinpoint the treatment and to start her on the right plan for gut and stomach healing. The other members of my family were positive for h.Pylori so needless to say we had to be treated as a whole family to prevent re-infection with the pathogen later.
Complications With the timely start of treatment, you can prevent the dangerous consequences of the disease and eliminate the risk of infecting other people. One of the frequent consequences of h.Pylori infection is an increase in the production of hydrochloric acid and gastrin first, a decrease in protective factors, leading to the onset of chronic or atrophying gastritis. As the disease progresses, areas of atrophy of the gastric mucosa are formed, acidity (stomach acid) decreases. The absorption of vitamin B12 is impaired. Patients develop signs of anemia and the peripheral nervous system is affected. Atrophy of the epithelial layer of the stomach can affect the development of pathological endocrine processes. The most dangerous complication is dysplasia of the atrophied mucosa, which significantly increases the risk of stomach cancer.
Prevention of h.Pylori
Prevention of h.Pylori infection includes adherence to the rules of personal hygiene, good nutrition, laboratory examination of people who have been in contact with infected H. pylori.
To avoid contamination, hands must be washed thoroughly; use only your own products and hygiene items (towels, toothbrushes, etc.); completely cure diseases of the gastrointestinal tract; undergo planned preventive medical examinations.