Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tract. Experts claim up to two-thirds of the world's population has H. pylori. Many people are not adversely affected by its presence, but some people develop stomach and duodenal inflammation and ulcers. In a very small percentage of the population, infection from H. pylori bacteria leads to stomach cancer.
One person can acquire h. pylori bacteria from another, either by a fecal-oral or oral-oral route. It can also be acquired through contaminated water or food. Once the bacteria enters the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it attaches itself to the lining of the stomach and produces certain toxins like Vac-A that causes inflammation of the stomach lining, which further damages the stomach lining. When acid gets through the lining of a stomach damaged by bacteria, it causes painful ulcers. These ulcers can further complicate with bleeding or perforation. Perforated ulcers are characterized by a hole in the wall of the stomach or small intestinal. Both bleeding and perforated ulcers require surgery. Most people infected with H. pylori do not react this way, however, and experts do not know why others do.
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