Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori)

What is Helicobacter pylori?
Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach. It can cause digestive illnesses such as gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), peptic ulcers (sores in the lining of the stomach, small intestine or esophagus). H.pylori is very common and can be found around the world.

What are the symptoms of Helicobacter pylori?
Most H. pylori infections are “silent” and cause no symptoms. However, when symptoms do happen they are usually symptoms of gastritis or peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcers).
Symptoms of gastritis include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Symptoms of peptic ulcer disease include:

  • Gnawing or burning pain in the abdomen that gets worse on empty stomach and improves as soon as the child eats food, drinks milk or takes antacid medication
  • Hematemesis (bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Melena stools (black bloody stools that look like tar)

What causes Helicobacter pylori?
Currently, we do not know how children get H. pylori. However, research is showing that it is passed from person to person but exactly how this happens is not known.

How is Helicobacter pylori infection diagnosed?
Although there are a number of test used to diagnose an H.pylori infection, the best test is an upper endoscopy with biopsies. The endoscopy allows the gastroenterologist to inspect the lining of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine for inflammation and ulcers. The biopsies can identify the bacteria.
Other ways to diagnose can include:

  • Blood tests – for H. pylori antibodies however positive result may indicate a past exposure and not an active infection
  • Breath tests are difficult to perform in young children and do not provide information about the severity of infection
  • Stool test do not provide information about the severity of the infection

What is the treatment for Helicobacter pylori?
H. pylori infections are treated using antibiotics. Often one antibiotic is not enough to kill the bacteria, so your doctor will be prescribe a combination of antibiotics. Your doctor may also prescribe antacids or acid-suppressing drug to neutralize or block production of stomach acids.

REMINDER: This information is intended to provide general information and should not be used to base a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult the doctors about your specific condition and the approach for treatment.