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You might think that no organism living in the human stomach could withstand the combined, brutal chemical assault of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. Yet some exceptionally tough micro-organisms can survive and even multiply in such a hostile environment.
Among the most prevalent is the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (h.pylori) which is believed to infect the stomachs of up to 40% of the world's population. As its name suggests, H.pylori is a helicoidal-type bacteria which burrows like a corkscrew in the epithelial cells close to the pylorus. It survives by secreting urease, an alkalinizing enzyme which neutralizes stomach acids.
H.pylori infection is associated with gastritis, dyspepsia and peptic ulcers - in fact, it is now recognized as the cause of the latter. Standard treatment to eliminate H.pylori involves long and extensive multi-therapy with antibiotics and other drugs. The side-effects of this treatment (nausea, diarrhoea and allergies) can be hard ...
Gut flora, or intestinal microbiota, describes the collection of microorganisms that live in the intestines and stomach. While they play an essential role in the body’s digestion and defences, some of these microorganisms may also be responsible for persistent problems such as the microbial strain Helicobacter pylori.
What is Helicobacter pylori infection?
This bacteria lives exclusively in the human stomach and is the only known bacteria able to survive and grow in such an acid environment. It is thought that 80% of gastro-duodenal ulcers are caused by H. pylori infections, even though in most cases (70-80%), the infection is asymptomatic. Over the long term, however, it induces a range of symptoms such as fatigue and chronic gastric discomfort, as well as chronic inflammation of the stomach and diseases such as stomach cancer – indeed it is believed to be responsible for 60-90% of gastric cancers. Given these estimates, it is possible th ...