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Scand J Gastroenterol. 1991 Sep;26(9):927-32.

Transmission of Helicobacter pylori infection. Studies in families of healthy individuals.

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  • 1Dept. of Medicine, USDA/ARS, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.


Helicobacter pylori is accepted as the commonest cause of type-B gastritis. Detailed information about the mode of transmission remains scanty. We investigated the frequency of H. pylori infection within families, defined as consisting of a husband and wife with at least one biologic child, all living in the same household. Inclusion criteria required that both the parents and the children had been born in the United States, had used no antibiotic or bismuth for the previous 2 months, had no recent major illness or surgical operation, and had no symptoms referable to the upper gastrointestinal tract. H. pylori infection was identified with a 13C-urea breath test and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for anti-H. pylori IgG. Forty-one families (151 healthy individuals) were enrolled. Before the results of the H. pylori tests were known, one parent was selected as the index subject. H. pylori infection clustered; that is, 68% of spouses of H. pylori-infected index subjects were also H. pylori-infected, compared with 9% of spouses of H. pylori-negative index subjects (p less than 0.0001). The children of infected index parents were also more likely to be infected than children of uninfected index parents--40% versus 3%, respectively (p less than 0.0001)--and the results in the children were independent of whether the father or the mother was the index subject. Clustering of H. pylori infection within families suggests person-to-person transmission or common source exposure. The high frequency of H. pylori infection in spouses suggests that genetic factors are less important than living conditions for transmission of H. pylori infection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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