KidsMD Health Topics

Helicobacter Pylori

  • Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is a spiral-shaped bacterium found in the stomach. H. pylori secretes acid, damages stomach and duodenal tissue and causes inflammation and peptic ulcers.

    Researchers aren't sure what causes H. pylori.

    Children's has one of the largest pediatric Gastroenterology programs in the world. We see more than 27,000 outpatient visits per year and consistently rank within the top three of pediatric digestive disorder centers by U.S.News & World Report. Ongoing clinical studies, as well as a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, make Children's a one-stop center for digestive disorders.

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115


  • What is H. Pylori?

    H. pylori is a bacterium and a leading cause of ulcers in children. It:

    • is able to penetrate the stomach's protective mucus lining
    • produces the enzyme urease, which damages your child's stomach acids
    • leads to sores or ulcers in the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine)
    • can also stimulate the stomach to produce more acid

    What are the symptoms of H. pylori-related ulcers?

    Most children or adults first develop gastritis: an inflammation of the stomach lining. Many will never have symptoms. Some symptoms are:    

    • dull, gnawing pain
    • loss of weight
    • loss of appetite
    • bloating
    • burping
    • nausea
    • vomiting
  • Tests used to diagnose Helicobacter pylori may include:

    • blood tests to identify antibodies that indicate the presence of the bacterium

    • stool test and to identify the bacterium (antigen)

    • breath tests to determine if carbon is present after drinking a solution that breaks down urea

    • tissue tests to detect the presence of the enzyme urease, examine the bacteria that is present, and start a culture test to grow more bacteria for examination

  • Treatment for H. pylori can include:

    • antibiotics to kill the bacteria
    • medications to suppress acid production, including:
    • H2-blockers, to reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking
    • histamine, a powerful stimulant of acid secretion.
    • proton pump inhibitors, to more completely block stomach acid production by stopping the stomach's acid pump
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