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Health News of Tuesday, 27 December 2022


Scientist decries neglect of pathogen that causes peptic ulcer

Peptic ulcer Peptic ulcer

A medical scientist with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Stella Smith, has decried the neglect of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a pathogen that causes peptic ulcer infections.

Prof. Smith said Helicobacter pylori are a neglected pathogen, adding that about 50 per cent of the world’s population is infected.

According to her, H. pylorus is a Gram-negative bacterium that infects and colonises the human gut.

Prof Smith, who is a Director of Research at NIMR, said the pathogen had been implicated in different gastric disorders including gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma, and gastric adenocarcinoma.

The scientist said this while speaking on a paper titled, “Helicobacter pylori: The Peptic Ulcer Bug Neglected But Unrelenting,” during the Health Writers Association of Nigeria week in Lagos.

H. pylori bacteria, according to experts, are usually transmitted from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit, or stool. It may also be spread through contaminated food or water.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organisation, categorised H. pylori as a class one carcinogen.

Prof. Smith noted that the burden of H. pylori was high in Africa, adding that there is a lack of awareness and misdiagnosis of the health condition.

The researcher who is also the President of the African Helicobacter & Microbiota Study Group said, “Although neglected in Africa, Helicobacter pylori is unrelenting in infecting and causing a diverse array of disease conditions in a large number of individuals.

“Helicobacter pylori infection is a neglected disease in Africa, most other infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and more recently COVID-19, have more attention in terms of research funding and grants.

“The burden of the infection in Africa is high with a reported prevalence of 70 per cent. Although, this could be higher due to a lack of data in some regions of the continent.

“It has been reported that 50 per cent of the world’s population are infected with H. pylori with people of different race and regions around the world having varying levels of severity and pathological outcomes.

“In Nigeria, the prevalence of H. pylori infection varies with northern Nigeria having more cases than other parts of the country.”

Prof. Smith said the possible causes of discrepancies in the prevalence rate across continents had been reported due to urbanisation, host genetic makeup, age and gender, and immune response of the host among others.

Continuing, the scientist said considering the high burden of Helicobacter pylori infection in Africa with its associated pathological outcomes, accurate and prompt diagnosis was key to managing, treating, and eradicating the disease.

She listed signs and symptoms of Helicobacter pylori infection to include stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, frequent burping, bloating, and unintentional weight loss.

Prof. Smith identified misdiagnosis mixed with lack of awareness as a major problem affecting the treatment and management of Helicobacter pylori in Africa, especially Nigeria.

According to her, the need for accurate diagnosis and treatment led to the formation of the African Helicobacter & Microbiota Study Group.

She said that the treatment for H. Pylori was based on a recommended antisecretory combination of drugs and antibiotics.

“Unfortunately, due to misuse and overuse of antibiotics, several bacterial pathogens including H. pylori have developed resistance to antibiotics.

“This is posing a big challenge to the effective treatment and eradication of H. pylori infection.

“There is no treatment regimen which guarantees cure of H. pylori infection in 100 per cent of patients,” she said.

The researcher said that the selected treatments must consider local antibiotic resistance patterns (if known), previous exposure and allergies to specific antibiotics, cost, side effects, and ease of administration.

“With the widespread number of resistance studies showing to commonly prescribed antibiotics in Africa, it is time to produce a consensus guideline to guide clinicians on the choice of antibiotic combination for H. pylori eradication,” she said.

She urged people with the infection to go for proper medical evaluation and treatment and also embrace good hygiene.

She called for necessary precautions to prevent the infection and further appealed to those infected to seek prompt medical attention.