What is an H. Pylori infection?

Helicobacter Pylori (commonly called H. Pylori) is a bacterium (germ).  It can infect the lining of your stomach and duodenum.

What problems can H. Pylori cause?

H. Pylori infection is the most common cause of duodenal and stomach ulcers. An ulcer is where the stomach or duodenum lining is damaged by acid which is made in the stomach and the underlying tissue is exposed. The appearance of an ulcer looks like a small red crater on the lining of your stomach or duodenum, and inflammation can appear as small red inflamed spots.

There is a natural mucus barrier which protects the tissue from acid. It is thought that H. Pylori disrupts the mucus defense barrier allowing acid to cause inflammation and ulcers.

H. Pylori can also cause indigestion (dyspepsia) a regurgitation of acid in the food pipe causing symptoms of burning and pain.

How is H. Pylori diagnosed?

A small biopsy can be taken from the lining of the stomach during a gastroscopy (a camera test). This can be tested for H. Pylori giving a quick five minute result. You will be informed of this before you leave the department.

A breath test can also confirm if you have H. Pylori infection.  A sample of your breath is analysed after you take a special drink. You must have stopped taking acid suppressing drugs (Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Ranitidine) for two weeks before your test.

A blood test can also detect antibodies to H. Pylori and confirm that you have been infected. However it takes sox months for this test to become negative once the infection has cleared.

How is H. Pylori Treated?

H. Pylori is eradicated by certain antibiotics. However, a combination of drugs is needed for complete treatment. It is usually treated with two antibiotics and an acid suppressing drug. It is important to take all the drugs as prescribed and complete the course. If you do not take the full course the chance of clearing up the infection is reduced.  In 9 out of 10 cases H. Pylori is cleared with the first treatment.  If the treatment is not successful you will need a second course of alternative antibiotics.

Who should be tested for H. Pylori?

  • If you have current dyspepsia (indigestion symptoms)
  • History of duodenal or stomach ulcer
  • Unexplained iron deficiency anaemia
  • Chronic Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia
  • Purpura (an uncommon condition where the number of platelets in the blood become very low)
  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Atrophic Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • If you are taking long term anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen, Voltorol, Naproxen, or Aspirin
Ref: 17-19-109
Review: Jan 21