Helicobacter pylori (H pylori)

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium (germ) that lives in the stomach.

It is present in approximately one-half of the world's population. H. pylori is probably spread by consuming food or water contaminated with fecal matter. Once the infection is present, it persists for many years, if not for life.

H. pylori causes changes to the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The bacteria invades the protective tissue that lines the stomach resulting in the release of certain enzymes and toxins that may directly or indirectly injure the cells of the stomach or duodenum.

The vast majority of people infected with H. pylori infection have no symptoms and will never develop problems. However, H. pylori is capable of causing a number of digestive problems, including ulcers, and much less commonly, stomach cancer.

H.pylori can be successfully treated with a combination of acid suppressing drugs and antibiotics. Successful eradication of H. pylori cures people with peptic ulcers.

For more information about H. pylori see the Gastroenterological Society of Australia website.