What's Going Around: H. pylori bacteria

What's Going Around: H. pylori bacteria

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A bacteria that causes infection in the stomach is What's Going Around this week.  H. pylori is a common bacteria that can cause symptoms similar to acid reflux or heartburn, but if left untreated, can do much more damage.

About two-thirds of the world's population has H. pylori bacteria living inside their bodies.  Dr. Jay Marque with Lake Charles Urgent Care explains the characteristics of the bacteria:

"H. pylori is a bacteria that's found in the saliva and stool, so we believe it lives in the GI tract and is probably transmitted person to person," he said.

Dr. Marque says you can get this bacteria through food, water, or utensils.  It can also be contracted through contact with saliva or body fluids of an infected person.

"About 30 percent of those in the U.S. are infected with this bacteria," said Dr. Marque.  "It colonizes the stomach and the upper intestine and causes a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses."

Those illnesses connected to H. pylori can mimic acid reflux, heartburn, and gastritis.  You  might also develop ulcers.

"If you have the bacteria and have symptoms and do not treat it, sometimes it can lead to peptic ulcer disease, which is an ulceration in the lining of the stomach, which can lead to bleeding and other complications," said Dr. Marque.

At his urgent care clinic, Dr. Marque says most patients he treats come in with upper abdominal burning, abdominal pain, or the sensation of fullness.

"We test them for the bacteria and that usually consists of a blood test and if they're positive for antibodies to this bacteria," said Dr. Marque, "we treat them with a course of antibiotics and acid-reducing medications."

Dr. Marque says the rapid test in the clinic is sufficient for people under the age of 55, but if you're over the age of 55 and any sort of family history of gastrointestinal illnesses, you will typically be referred to a specialist for an endoscopy.  

The best step to keep from contracting this bacteria is to wash your hands after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.  

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