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Scand J Infect Dis. 2006;38(6-7):407-17.

Helicobacter pylori occurrence and transmission: a family affair?

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Department of Clinical Microbiology, Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center (MTC) Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


About half of the world's population is estimated to be infected with Helicobacter pylori, a gastric bacterium that contributes to the development of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. H. pylori is more prevalent in low-income areas of the world and social and economic development decreases the prevalence as reflected in comparisons both within and between countries. The infection is typically acquired in early childhood and once established commonly persists throughout life unless treated. Person-to-person transmission within the family appears to be the predominant mode of transmission, particularly from mothers to children and among siblings, indicating that intimate contact is important. The route of transmission is uncertain, but the gastro-oral, oral-oral and faecal-oral routes are likely possibilities. Hence, gastroenteritis may facilitate dissemination of the infection. The community and environment may play additional roles for H. pylori transmission in some (low-income) settings. Furthermore, host and bacterial factors may modify the probabilities of acquisition and persistence of the infection. The understanding of H. pylori occurrence and transmission is of practical importance if future study deems prevention of the infection desirable in some high-prevalence populations. The present paper reviews aspects of H. pylori occurrence and transmission with an emphasis on household factors.

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