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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2001 Feb;13(2):177-83.

The racial cohort phenomenon: seroepidemiology of Helicobacter pylori infection in a multiracial South-East Asian country.

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Malaysia is a multiracial country where three major Asian races live together: Malay, Chinese and Indian. In addition, there are a number of native or indigenous races, particularly in East Malaysia. Differences in prevalence of gastric diseases between races have been noted, particularly with respect to peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence rates and risk factors for Helicobacter pylori infection among various races in Malaysia.


A large-scale prospective seroepidemiological study in West and East Malaysia using the HEL-p II commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit (AMRAD, Melbourne, Australia) to detect H. pylori antibodies. Populations surveyed in West Malaysia were a rural community from Kuala Pilah, and blood donors from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Baru. Subjects studied in East Malaysia were volunteer blood donors from Kota Kinabalu, and blood donors and healthy volunteers from Sibu. Statistical analyses using multiple logistic regression analysis were carried out to identify independent risk factors for H. pylori infection


A total of 2,381 subjects were evaluated. H. pylori prevalence varied from different areas of study and ranged from a low of 26.4% in blood donors from Kota Baru to a high of 55.0% in Kota Kinabalu. The most striking differences, however, were noted in the prevalence rates among different racial groups. Prevalence rates among the Malays ranged from 11.9 to 29.2%, while the Chinese ranged from 26.7 to 57.5%, and those of Indians in two studies were 49.4 and 52.3%. In every location, Malays had a significantly lower prevalence compared with the other races. The highest prevalence rates were recorded among the indigenous races in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia. There was no difference between males and females in the studies. An increasing trend with age was noted in the majority of studies; however, no increase in prevalence rates was noted among the Malays.


The pattern of infection in a multiracial population in Malaysia points to a 'racial cohort' phenomenon. The infection appears to be confined to a racial group, with the Malays having consistently low prevalence rates. This observation may provide clues to the mode of transmission of infection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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