Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that lives in the digestive tract. Experts claim that up to two-thirds of the population has H. pylori. Many people are not affected adversely by this bacteria, although in some people, it can cause stomach and duodenal ulcers and infection. In a very small percentage of the population, infection from H. pylori bacteria will lead to stomach cancer.
1. What causes an H. pylori infection?
H. pylori bacteria can be acquired from another person, either by fecal-oral or oral-oral route. It can also be acquired through contaminated water or food. Once the bacteria enters the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it attaches itself to the lining of the stomach. It produces a bacteria called Vac-A that causes the stomach lining to become inflamed, which stimulates the bacteria to reproduce and grow even further. This leads to damage to the lining of the stomach, which is there to protect the stomach from acid. When the acid gets through the lining, it causes ulcers which are painful, bleed, and may lead to infection. Most people who are infected with H. pylori will not get ulcers. It is unknown why some people get ulcers, and others do not.