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Role of Helicobacter pylori in the pathogenesis of gastritis, peptic ulcer and gastric cancer.

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Dept. of Pathology, Jorvi Hospital, Espoo, Finland.


Helicobacter pylori is the major causal factor in chronic gastritis. Its acquisition leads to a chronic, usually lifelong, inflammation of the gastric mucosa, which may gradually progress to atrophy (with intestinal metaplasia) in a significant proportion of infected individuals. This progression is probably multifactorial, being influenced by genetic or environmental factors in addition to H. pylori infection. The pathogenesis of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer is closely associated with H. pylori gastritis and its subsequent atrophic sequelae (atrophic gastritis). H. pylori-induced gastritis is an important risk factor in the multifactorial aetiology of these diseases. It causes a cascade of reactions that damage the gastric mucosa and epithelium in various ways. The specific mechanisms involved are largely unknown. Some are probably bacterium-related reactions, which are influenced by various virulence factors, and others are consequences of the mucosal inflammation and atrophy. The risk of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer in patients with H. pylori gastritis can be summarized as follows: i) the risk of both peptic ulcer and gastric cancer is low in individuals with a normal stomach; ii) the risk of peptic ulcer is approximately ten times higher and the risk of gastric cancer approximately twice as high in patients with non-atrophic H. pylori-positive gastritis as in those with a normal stomach; iii) these risks are further increased (twofold to threefold) when there is antral atrophy; whereas iv) in the presence of corpus atrophy the risk of gastric cancer remains high, but that of peptic ulcer decreases gradually to zero with increasing severity of corpus atrophy.

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