H. pylori is a bacteria that can cause peptic ulcer disease and gastritis. It mostly occurs in children. Only 20% of those infected have symptoms. Symptoms include dull or burning stomach pain, unplanned weight loss and bloody vomit. H-pylori-caused ulcers are commonly treated with combinations of antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors.
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) are bacteria that can cause an infection in the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). It’s the most common cause of peptic ulcer disease. H. pylori can also inflame and irritate the stomach lining (gastritis). Untreated, long-term H. pylori infection can lead to stomach cancer (rarely).
H. pylori bacteria are present in some 50% to 75% of the world’s population. It does not cause illness in most people. H. pylori infection mostly occurs in children. It’s more common in developing countries. In the U.S., H. pylori bacteria are found in about 5% of children under the age of 10. Infection is most likely to occur in children who live in crowded conditions and areas with poor sanitation.
Yes, H. pylori can spread from person to person. H. pylori are found in saliva, plaque on teeth and poop. Infection can be spread through kissing and by transferring the bacteria from the hands of those who have not thoroughly washed them after a bowel movement.
Scientists think H. pylori also might be spread through H. pylori-contaminated water and food.
If you have an H. pylori infection, you have an increased risk for stomach cancer later in life. If you have a strong family history of stomach cancer and other cancer risk factors, even though you may not have symptoms of a stomach ulcer, your healthcare provider may recommend being tested for H. pylori antibodies. In addition to screening and treatment, your provider may suggest some lifestyle changes, such as including more fruits, vegetables and fiber in your diet. Regular checkups with your provider and following their recommendations can reduce your cancer risk.
H. pylori multiply in the mucus layer of the stomach lining and duodenum. The bacteria secrete an enzyme called urease that converts urea to ammonia. This ammonia protects the bacteria from stomach acid. As H. pylori multiply, it eats into stomach tissue, which leads to gastritis and/or gastric ulcer.
Most children with H. pylori infection don’t have symptoms. Only about 20% do.
Symptoms and signs, if present, are those that arise from gastritis or peptic ulcer and include:
If your healthcare provider suspects H. pylori bacteria may be causing a stomach ulcer, they may order one or more of the following tests:
If you don’t have symptoms, you don’t need to be treated. If you've been diagnosed with H. pylori, avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs can increase your risk of developing an ulcer.
H. pylori-caused ulcers are treated with a combination of antibiotics and an acid-reducing proton pump inhibitor.
Combination treatment is usually taken for 14 days.
One newer medication, Talicia®, combines two antibiotics (rifabutin and amoxicillin) with a proton pump inhibitor (omeprazole) into a single capsule.
You can lower your risk of H. pylori infection if you:
Not yet, but there are promising results from a late-stage clinical trial. In this trial, children given the vaccine were protected against H. pylori infection for up to three years.
If your child follows the treatment plan and takes all medication to its completion, the chance that an infection would return within three years is less than 10%. In addition, treatment may heal stomach ulcers. It can takes weeks to months for symptoms to completely go away.
Your healthcare provider will repeat a breath and/or stool test after waiting at least two weeks after proton pump inhibitor treatment has finished and four weeks after completing antibiotic treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/19/2021.
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