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Infective gastroenteritis and its relationship to reduced gastric acidity.


Hypochlorhydria by compromising the defence mechanisms of the upper gastrointestinal tract predisposes to intestinal bacterial and parasitic infections. Achlorhydria predisposes to anaerobic colonization of the small intestine; colonization is far greater than in normal subjects even with partial neutralization of their gastric acidity after a meal. The best evidence for increased incidence of specific bacterial infection in the presence of achlorhydria relates to the nontyphoid salmonelloses. There is also strongly suggestive evidence in cholera. Among parasitic infections, the most impressive evidence relates to giardiasis and strongyloidiasis. In some instances, the infections themselves may also cause hypochlorhydria. Longitudinal studies are required. Whether patients receiving H2-receptor antagonists are unduly vulnerable to gastrointestinal infections is unclear. The importance of hypochlorhydria in 'Third World' populations, in whom gastrointestinal infections are extremely common, especially in infancy, is, at present, also impossible to evaluate.

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