What is Helicobacter Pylori?

Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that enters your body and lives in the digestive tract. According to a study, when helicobacter pylori reside in the human digestive tract, it will release urease which converts urea to ammonia. Ammonia will help to neutralize the acidity of the stomach and make the digestive tract more suitable for it to grow. This also allows helicobacter pylori to multiply easier and more and more bacteria will be present in the stomach. The bacteria will eat up the stomach tissue/lining and cause gastritis or peptic ulcer. If left untreated, it will lead to gastric cancer.

How is Helicobacter Pylori Infection being transmitted?

Helicobacter Pylori is transmitted through oral to oral or fecal to oral route. This means that all of us will get helicobacter pylori infection through food, water or sharing utensils if the bacteria is present in it. People often get H.pylori infection during childhood especially when their parents or caretakers are infected but not showing any symptoms.

Risk Factors of getting H.Pylori Infection

Living conditions and environment is the main risk factor of getting H.pylori infection.
Those living in crowded conditions or living in an area without a reliable supply of clean water have a higher risk of getting H.pylori infection. Someone who is living with family members or friends that are diagnosed with H.pylori infection also has a higher risk of getting infected.

What are the symptoms of H.Pylori infection?

Most people infected with H.Pylori do not have any symptoms until complications or peptic ulcers have developed.

However, some patients do experience some symptoms that make them uncomfortable.

Below are the common symptoms associated with H.Pylori infection:

  1. Abdomen pain/burning pain in the stomach in which sometimes the pain worsens if the stomach is empty
  2. Bloatedness
  3. Excessive burping
  4. Nausea/vomiting
  5. Heartburn
  6. Unintentional weight loss
  7. Poor appetite

If you notice the symptoms below, please consult a doctor immediately because some serious complications might already be developed:

  1. Blood in stool
  2. Blackish stool
  3. Loss of weight with poor appetite
  4. Symptoms of anemia: dizziness, palpitation, paleness, lethargy
  5. Vomits out blood or coffee-ground vomitus
illustration of female clinicians inspecting a stomach

How to screen for Helicobacter Pylori Infection?

Several tests and procedures are available to detect Helicobacter Pylori. Repeat testing is important after treatment in order to confirm the clearance of H.pylori infection. Below are the tests available for H.pylori infection:

  1. Urea Breath Test:
    You are required to swallow a pill or drink a liquid that contains tagged carbon molecules and wait for 30 minutes before performing a urea breath test. If H.pylori bacteria is present, the carbon is released when it comes into contact with the bacteria. So, patients are required to blow into a bag 30 minutes before and after swallowing a pill or drinking a liquid. A special device will be used to detect the presence of carbon molecules.
  2. Stool Antigen Test:
    Most common stool test to detect H.pylori. The test will look for protein/antigen associated with H.Pylori infection in the stool.
  3. Endoscopy test:
    Usually, this test can be used to investigate the symptoms that are caused by H.pylori infection such as a peptic ulcer or gastritis. During the procedure, a flexible tube with a tiny camera will pass through your throat, esophagus, stomach and first part of the intestine to look for any abnormality. Usually, a small tissue sample/biopsy will be taken to look for H.Pylori infection.

How to treat Helicobacter Pylori Infection?

H.Pylori infection is usually treated with triple therapy which includes two types of antibiotics and one type of proton pump inhibitor. The duration of treatment is 14 days and the test is required to repeat after 1 month of completion of treatment to confirm the clearance of H.pylori infection.

Type of medications:

  1. Proton pump inhibitors (PPI)
  2. This medication stops acid from being produced in the stomach and promotes healing of the stomach lining
  3. Example: pantoprazole, esomeprazole, omeprazole, lansoprazole
  4. Antibiotic
  5. Antibiotic is given to kill or eradicate Helicobacter pylori bacteria
  6. Example: clarithromycin with metronidazole or levofloxacin with amoxicillin
  7. Probiotic
  8. The study found out that probiotics have significantly improved the healing

How to prevent getting H.Pylori infection?

You can prevent yourself from getting Helicobacter pylori infection by practicing the following measure/steps:

  1. Avoid food/water that is not clean
  2. Wash hands before preparing or handling food
  3. Avoid sharing food with others who have gastric symptoms
  4. Do not share food or utensils with someone who is diagnosed with H.Pylori

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