Helicobacter Pylori: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Helicobacter Pylori: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Helicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is a Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human stomach. Although it was discovered only in 1982, modern medicine has sufficient knowledge to detect infections and treat them effectively. H. pylori diagnosis may be difficult in some cases because some infected people do not experience any symptoms.

At the same time, untreated infection with this bacterium can lead to serious health consequences and the development of other diseases, which is why prevention and early diagnosis are so important. How to recognize and treat Helicobacter pylori infection and what does the latest research say about the prevention and treatment of this condition?

H. Pylori Transmission And Colonisation

H.pylori is a spiral-shaped bacteria adapted to live in the human stomach. In approximately one tenth of cases, these bacteria may contribute to the development of gastric and duodenal ulcers. Infection most often occurs via the oral-oral route (e.g. by exchanging kisses or eating with the same cutlery) or via the oral-fecal route.

Interestingly, the factors that increase susceptibility to H. pylori infection are poor housing conditions, as well as generally reduced immunity and failure to comply with personal hygiene standards. As a consequence, helicobacter pylori bacteria not only change the pH of the stomach to alkaline, but also produce toxins that have a very negative effect on the mucous membrane of this organ. In serious cases, apart from gastritis, H. pylori infection may also cause stomach ulcers or stomach cancer.

Main Symptoms And Diagnosis Of H. Pylori

Although not all H. pylori carriers experience severe symptoms, infection may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, frequent flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, and even low-grade fever. It is worth observing whether these symptoms persist for a long time, and also making sure that they are not related to other ailments, allergies or food intolerances. If they persist despite excluding problematic foods from the diet, or are not related to stress or a sudden change in diet, it is worth starting diagnostics for Helicobacter pylori infection.

H. pylori diagnosis is a relatively complex process that requires a thorough interview, exclusion of other ailments and specialised tests. Generally, H. pylori diagnostics can be divided into two segments: invasive and non-invasive testing. Home-based self-tests can serve as an effective initial step for additional diagnostic measures.

The non-invasive testing method involves breath tests and stool antigen tests. The urea breath test involves the patient consuming a special substance containing urea labelled with a radioactive or non-radioactive carbon atom. If H. pylori is present in the stomach, it produces an enzyme called urease, which breaks down urea into carbon dioxide. The patient then exhales into a bag, and the collected breath sample is analysed for the presence of carbon dioxide, indicating the presence of H. pylori.

Stool antigen tests are another non-invasive option, in which a small stool sample is collected and analysed for the presence of H. pylori antigens. This type of testing is particularly useful for monitoring treatment effectiveness. Finally, serological blood tests are used for confirming H. pylori diagnosis – nevertheless, they are relatively less common and indicate past infections. A more invasive screening, allowing for H. pylori diagnosis is gastroscopy, which visualises the stomach lining and enables collecting biopsy samples.

Treatment Of H. Pylori & Latest Research

Treatment of H. pylori infection is usually carried out in several stages and uses antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin, metronidazole, and tetracycline. Equally important are Proton Pump Inhibitors (omeprazole, lansoprazole, or esomeprazole), usually used to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics. What is more, bismuth-based treatments, often combined with antibiotics, have shown efficacy in eradicating H. pylori. The length and intensity of treatment is always individually recommended by a specialist, depending on the patient's medical history and needs.

Interestingly, scientists are developing a vaccine against H. pylori. Innovative vaccine strategies specifically engineered to bypass or overcome the host's immunoregulatory response could offer the most favourable prospects for developing an effective vaccine for widespread use.

It is worth remembering that Preventing H. pylori transmission is crucial to preventing recurrence of infection. This can be achieved through maintaining proper hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, and avoiding the consumption of contaminated food and water. It is also vital to increase public awareness of H. pylori bacteria and educate on the subject.


  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrgastro.2011.1
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534233/
  3. https://www.worldgastroenterology.org/guidelines/helicobacter-pylori