What Is H. Pylori Infection ?

Helicobacter Pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach and it is mostly harmless for most people. But for some people, helicobacter pylori infection causes some serious health issues. This can cause ulcers in the stomach ( gastric ulcers) or ulcers in the duodenum ( duodenal ulcers). 

H. Pylori is found in the lining of the stomach and it is found in almost 40%  of the UK population.¹  Most people are unaffected by this infection. According to Guts UK, around 15% of the population gets ulcers due to h pylori infection.


Helicobacter Pylori is mostly spread through contaminated food and water. This infection mostly happens in kids and the bacteria stays in the body unless treated by antibiotics. H. pylori lines the stomach and damages the ability of the stomach to protect itself from stomach acids. This damage caused due to stomach acids can cause ulcers of the stomach or duodenum. More than half of the world's population might have h pylori infection, but do not know about it. 

This infection is more common in developing countries. It is not of much concern in the UK. Precautions should be taken to prevent infection as it can cause gastritis and peptic ulcer disease which includes stomach and duodenal ulcers in some cases. There are also increased risks of gastric cancer and Mucosal associated-lymphoid-type ( MALT).²

Causes of h. pylori infection 

Helicobacter pylori infection occurs when any person comes in contact with the stool, saliva, or vomit of an infected person. Some people or situations are prone to developing this infection.³

  • Crowded area: People living in crowded homes are prone to h pylori infection. This can be due to the absence of hygienic measures
  • Developing country: This infection is mostly seen in developing countries due to a lack of hygiene and care
  • Water: People who don't have a supply of clean, running water are at risk of developing this infection
  • Contact with an infected person: People who are in direct or close contact with an infected person are prone to getting infected. It is due to the fact that the bacteria gets transmitted through the saliva, stool, or vomit of the infected person

Signs and symptoms of h. pylori infection 

Most people don't experience any symptoms due to helicobacter pylori infection. But there are many who experience symptoms such as:³ 

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Excessive burping 
  • Weight loss 
  • Bloating 
  • Pain worsens when hungry or a few hours after eating

Diagnosis of h. pylori 

If there are symptoms of helicobacter pylori infection, the healthcare provider might run some tests for confirmation.⁴

  • Blood tests: The presence of antibodies in the blood might mean the presence of Helicobacter pylori
  • Stool sample: A stool sample is collected and sent to the lab to check out the presence of bacteria. It takes around 2-3 days to get a positive result
  • Breath test: The patient is asked to swallow a urea pill. After some time, breath is checked for the presence of carbon which indicates the helicobacter pylori infection. H pylori release an enzyme urease which weakens the stomach lining
  • Endoscopy: Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is the endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The endoscope tube has a camera at one end and it is inserted through the mouth to check esophagus, stomach, and the duodenum. Sometimes, a biopsy is done by taking a small tissue piece to check the presence of bacteria

Management and treatment for h. pylori infection 

Helicobacter pylori infection might not be troublesome for some people. Whereas, some people experience symptoms and need treatment. Two different antibiotics are given at the same time to the patient so that at least one works even if bacteria develop resistance to anyone. Sometimes the use of NSAIDs is related to stomach ulcers. In such cases, doctors might review and give some alternative medications. Different treatment options to treat the infection are:³,⁴,⁵

  • Proton pump inhibitor (PPI): These drugs stop acid production in the stomach. This reduces the damage due to ulcers. These medications are prescribed for a duration of 4-8 weeks. According to the NHS website, Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, and Pantoprazole are used to treat stomach ulcers. There can be some side effects such as dizziness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, and stomach ache. These are mostly temporary and should subside after the completion of the treatment
  • Histamine (H-2) blockers : These also block the acid production in the stomach by blocking histamine which is responsible for the acid production. Ranitidine can be used for treating stomach ulcers. There might be some side effects like tiredness, dizziness, diarrhea, and rashes
  • Antacids : Doctors prescribe antacids to protect the stomach lining by neutralizing the acid. Alginate is added to some antacids to produce a protective coating on the stomach. These medications should be taken after a meal. There can be minor side effects such as diarrhea, flatulence, stomach ache, and nausea
  • Triple therapy : It is the combination of three oral medications given for 10-14 days to treat helicobacter pylori infection. Nowadays this therapy is failing in many cases as bacteria develop resistance to a drug. It can be a combination of two antibiotics with an antacid
  • Quadruple therapy : In this, a combination of four medications is given for 10-14 days to treat Helicobacter pylori infection


How is h. pylori infection diagnosed 

Helicobacter pylori infection can be diagnosed by blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy, and breath tests.

Can h. pylori infection be prevented 

Helicobacter pylori infection spreads through contaminated food and water. The sources of infection are saliva, stool, and vomit. So, maintaining a hygienic environment and consuming healthy, hygienic meals can prevent infection.

Who are at risk of H. pylori infection 

Helicobacter pylori is common in developing countries. People living in crowded homes are also prone to the infection. If someone comes in contact with contaminated food and water or an infected person, they might get infected. 

How common is H. pylori infection 

Helicobacter pylori is found in almost 40% of the UK population.

When should I see a doctor 

If you are passing dark, sticky stools and experiencing sharp, abdominal pains then it is better to contact your GP. If you are vomiting blood, then you should be contacting the emergency department.


Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that is found in the stomach lining. This bacteria is spread through contaminated food and water. The stool, saliva, and vomit of an infected person are the source of this bacterial transmission. 

Helicobacter pylori infection is mostly found in developing countries where hygienic measures are not followed rigorously. This infection is mostly seen in crowded houses where several people share a house and hygiene measures are not followed. People who don't have a supply to clean water are also at risk of contracting this infection. This infection is not common in the UK. Almost 40% of the UK population has H pylori in their stomach. Not everyone having this bacterium in their stomach lining experiences symptoms. 

Some people experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, loss of appetite, and weight loss. This bacterial infection might lead to peptic ulcer disease, including stomach and duodenal ulcers. In some cases, this bacterial infection can also be a cause of gastritis, gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, or Mucosal associated-lymphoid-type ( MALT).


  1. Helicobacter pylori [Internet]. Guts UK. [cited 2023 Mar 3]. Available from: https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/conditions/helicobacter-pylori/
  2. Helicobacter pylori - chapter 4 - 2020 yellow book | travelers’ health | cdc [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 3]. Available from: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/helicobacter-pylori
  3. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2023 Mar 3]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171
  4. Helicobacter pylori [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 4]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/helicobacter-pylori
  5. Helicobacter pylori infection - gastrointestinal disorders [Internet]. MSD Manual Professional Edition. [cited 2023 Mar 5]. Available from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gastritis-and-peptic-ulcer-disease/helicobacter-pylori-infection
  6. Does H.pylori cause cancer? [Internet]. Cancer Research UK. 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 5]. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/infections-eg-hpv-and-cancer/does-hpylori-cause-cancer
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Simmi Anand

B.Sc. Nuclear Medicine, Manipal University
MBA Healthcare Services, Sikkim Manipal University

An experienced Nuclear Medicine professional with a passion for writing.

She is experienced in dealing with patients suffering from different ailments, mostly cancer.

Simmi took a career break to raise her daughter with undivided attention.

During this time, she fine-tuned her writing skills and started writing stories for her child. Today, Simmi is a published author of 'Story time with proverbs' series for young ones. She also enjoys writing parenting blogs on her website www.simmianand.com.

Simmi hopes to reignite her career as a medical writer, combining her medical knowledge with her zeal for writing to produce informative health articles for her readers.

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