Helicobacter Pylori Infection
Helicobacter Pylori is a bacteria that resides in the mucous layer of the lining of the stomach. It produces an enzyme Urease that can cause inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis). It is responsible for a vast majority of Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers.
How is the infection transmitted?
The infection is transmitted through the feco-oral route. This usually means eating uncooked foods such as salads, vegetables etc that are contaminated with the bacteria.
What does Helicobacter do?
Helicobacter produces inflammation in the stomach lining (Gastritis) that can lead to Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers. It can also cause some forms of Gastric cancer or lymphoma. Hence, it is important to eradicate the organism when detected.
How is Helicobacter detected?
Several tests are available to establish a diagnosis and these include:
- Blood Tests: These do not tell us if this is a past or ongoing infection.
- Stool Tests: Helicobacter can be detected in stool specimens if the infection is significant.
- Urea Breath Test: Since the bacteria produces Urea, a breath test using non-radioisotope C14 urea is used to detect the bacteria.
- Endoscopic Biopsy: This remains the gold standard. Special stains can detect even a few bacteria.
How is Helicobacter treated?
Helicobacter Pylori infection treatment requires the use of Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid etc) along with at least two antibiotics for 10-14 days. After completion of treatment, a Urea Breath test is done to confirm eradication.