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World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jul 14;16(26):3226-34.

Helicobacter pylori and gastric cancer in the Middle East: a new enigma?

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Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.


The Middle East is the home of ethnic groups from three main backgrounds: Semitic (Arabs and Jews), Indo-European (Persians and Kurdish) and Turkic (Turkish and Turkmens). Its geographic location, which has been under continuous influences from Asia, Europe and Africa, has made it an ideal site for epidemiological studies on Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and genotyping. The gastric cancer rate differs in this region from very high in Iran (26.1/10(5)) to low in Israel (12.5/10(5)) and very low in Egypt (3.4/10(5)). Epidemiological studies showed that the prevalence of H. pylori is almost similar in those countries with a high level of infection in childhood. Importantly, the frequency of vacA s1 and m1 regions and cagA+ genotypes were higher in non Semitic populations who inhabit the North than Semitic populations, the inhabitants of Southern parts of the Middle East. H. pylori infection prevalence, distribution pattern of virulence factors, diet and smoking could not have explained the difference in cancer rate. This reflects the multifactorial aetiology of gastric cancer and suggests that H. pylori infection does not always directly correlate with the risk for gastrointestinal disease, such as gastric cancer. Further detailed investigations and international comparative studies of each risk factor need to be performed to investigate whether this represents a true enigma.

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