About the infection, continued
Helicobacter pylori is a gram-negative spirally shaped bacterium that exclusively lives in the mucosa of the stomach and duodenum. This bacterium has a unique way of adapting in the hostile environment of the stomach. The inside of the stomach is composed of gastric juices – digestive enzymes and concentrated hydrochloric acid. These are important for optimal digestive conditions and for elimination of swallowed living microorganisms. Before the discovery of H. pylori, the stomach was thought to be sterile, containing no bacteria. This discovery changed prevailing medical views. Now it is generally accepted that Helicobacter pylori causes gastritis which in turn can lead to ulcers and eventually cancer. Helicobacter pylori eradication decreases the incidence of gastroduodenal ulcer and prevents its recurrence.
The stomach mucosa is protected from its own gastric juice by a thick layer of mucus that covers the stomach lining. Helicobacter pylori takes advantage of this protection by living in the mucus lining. When Helicobacter pylori is safely encased in the mucus lining, it produces high amounts of an enzyme, urease, to fight the acids in the stomach. The immune system is unable to eradicate bacteria lodged within the mucus lining of the stomach and a chronic inflammation, known as type B-gastritis, develops. The environment is a prerequisite for peptic ulcer disease.
Many researchers believe that H. pylori is transmitted orally by means of fecal matter through the ingestion of waste-tainted food or water. It is also possible that H. pylori could be transmitted from the stomach to the mouth through belching or gastro-esophagal reflux, common symptoms of gastritis, when a small amount of the stomach’s contents is involuntarily forced up the esophagus. The bacterium could then be transmitted through oral contact.