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Helicobacter pylori

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach. About a third of Australian adults carry the bug, but many don’t realise they have it. Once detected, H. pylori can be treated. This bacteria can cause stomach inflammation (gastritis) and more serious conditions such as stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.

What is Helicobacter pylori?

H. pylori is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach. It is the most common infection in the world and is more common in developing countries. It can damage the stomach’s lining, making it more vulnerable to stomach acid.

Conditions related to Helicobacter pylori

Anyone who is infected with H. pylori eventually develops gastritis but they may not show any symptoms.

If you are infected with this bacteria, you are more likely than other people to develop ulcers or cancer of the stomach.

If you’re diagnosed with a stomach ulcer caused by H. pylori, your doctor is likely to treat you with a mix of antibiotic medicines and acid suppressing medication to kill the bacteria.

How is Helicobacter pylori transmitted?

People usually become infected as children, but you can also be infected as an adult. H. pylori spreads through:

  • mouth-to-mouth contact, such as kissing
  • sharing food or utensils with an infected person
  • contact with the vomit or faeces (poo) of an infected person
  • contaminated food or water.

Prevention

You can reduce your chances of getting H. pylori in the same way as you protect yourself from other germs, for example by:

  • washing your hands after you use the bathroom, and before preparing and eating food
  • avoiding food or water that’s not clean
  • not eating anything that isn’t cooked thoroughly (especially when travelling)
  • avoiding food served by people who haven’t washed their hands.

Last reviewed: April 2017

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