The Facts About H pylori
Helicobacter pylori (aka H. pylori) is a bug that lives in the stomach, and thrives in the acidic environment.
It’s the most common chronic bacterial infection in humans, and amazingly, about a third of north American and north European adults are infected.
In areas such as South America and Asia, rates of infection are higher than 50%!
Why is this important?
H. pylori can cause ulcers, as well as inflammation of the stomach (called gastritis), which in turn can cause discomfort (called dyspepsia). Over time (we’re talking years here usually), it has clearly been associated with various forms of stomach cancer. But don’t worry – most people with H. pylori DO NOT get stomach cancer, and in fact live their lives without ever knowing they had it in the first place.
How do I get tested?
The best tests to look for active infection are a breath test or a stool test. A blood antibody test is also available; however, once you’ve tested positive, you will always be positive, even if you’ve been treated and cleared the infection. We can also detect active infection with stomach biopsies taken during an endoscopy.
How did I get this?
Sorry to gross you out – but H. pylori is contracted by ingesting poop from an infected person. And it’s not as impossible at it sounds – any unsanitary practices, like poor hand hygiene, can lead to tiny amount of infected stool being passed from hands to mouthes of strangers. It can also be transmitted orally through saliva.
How do I get rid of it?
The good news is, treatment is very easy. It involves a combination of antibiotics and acid reducing medications (proton pump inhibitors). Your doctor will advise you on which ones to take based on your history.
Can I get reinfected?
Yes, but it’s very, very unlikely.