Helicobacter Pylori

Helicobacter Pylori (H.pylori) is a bacterium that commonly infects the lining of the stomach. H.pylori was first identified as an important cause of stomach problems by two Australians, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren in 1982. They were awarded the Nobel prize for this discovery in 2005.

World-wide H.pylori is extremely common infecting between 1/3 and 1/2 of the global population. The incidence in Australia is much lower and has been declining in recent decades due to improved sanitation, increased detection and more wide-spread use of effective treatments.

Most people who are infected have no symptoms however H.pylori is capable of causing indigestion, ulcers in the stomach and duodenum and is also associated with an increased risk of cancer in the stomach. People who have family members who have had ulcers or stomach cancer are at increased risk of complications.

H.Pylori infection is usually diagnosed with a breath test or at the time of endoscopy. Treatment involves a combination of two or more antibiotics together with anti-secretory treatment for 1-2 weeks and is effective in up to 90% of people. Successful eradication of the infection should be confirmed with repeat testing after treatment. If initial treatment fails then specialist advice may help.