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How Do You Get Helicobacter?

More than 90 percent of stomach ulcers are caused by a bacteria called helicobacter. We used to think that you get this germ only by eating polluted food and drinking polluted water, but studies have shown that you can also get helicobacter from kissing (7,8).

A study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences showed that 84 percent of people with helicobacter infections in their stomachs have this germ in their saliva, while only 25 percent of these people have the germ in their stool (1). This confirms other studies (2) shows that kissing a person with helicobacter may be more likely to give you stomach ulcers than eating and drinking polluted food and water. Kissing your cat can also give you a stomach ulcer as cats are common sources (3). People in third world countries are even more likely to transmit this germ because helicobacter can be found on their teeth. but usually not on the teeth of people from countries with good dental hygiene (4).

To protect yourself from developing stomach ulcers, check your partner for belching, burping, burning in the stomach that gets more severe when the person is hungry and better after eating, a white-coated tongue, a chronic sore throat, and mouth odor. Any person with these symptoms should get a blood test for helicobacter, and if positive, he or she should get an upper GI series X ray to rule out stomach cancer also caused by helicobacter (5,6). The person can be cured by taking three medications for just one week. We can now add helicobacter infections and stomach ulcers to the list of sexually transmitted diseases.
More on Helicobacter pylori

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) CF Li, TZ Ha, DA Ferguson, DS Chi, RG Zhao, NR Patel, G Krishnaswamy, E Thomas. A newly developed PCR assay of H-pylori in gastric biopsy, saliva, and feces: Evidence of high prevalence of H-pylori in saliva supports oral transmission. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 41: 11 (NOV 1996): 2142-2149.

2) K Schutze, E Hentschel, B Dragosics, AM Hirschl. Helicobacter pylori reinfection with identical organisms: Transmission by the patients' spouses. Gut 36: 6 (JUN 1995): 831-833.

3) Infection and Immunity 1994; 62: 2367-74.

4) K Shankaran, HG Desai. Helicobacter pylori in dental plaque. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 21: 2 (SEP 1995): 82-84.

5) D Boixeda, JP Gisbert, C Arocena, R Canton, IA Baleriola, CM Deargila, AYG Plaza. Prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection in gastric adenocarcinoma and chronic gastritis. Revista Espanola de Enfermedades Digestivas 88: 6 (JUN 1996): 403-408.

6) A Kokkola, J Valle, R Haapiainen, P Sipponen, E Kivilaakso, P Puolakkainen. Helicobacter pylori infection in young patients with gastric carcinoma. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 31: 7 (JUL 1996): 643-647.

7) F Parente, G Maconi, O Sangaletti, M Minguzzi, L Vago, E Rossi, GB Porro. Prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection and related gastroduodenal lesions in spouses of Helicobacter pylori positive patients with duodenal ulcer. Gut 39: 5 (NOV 1996): 629-633.

8) SD Georgopoulos, AF Mentis, CA Spiliadis, LS Tzouvelekis, E Tzelepi, A Moshopoulos, N Skandalis. Helicobacter pylori infection in spouses of patients with duodenal ulcers and comparison of ribosomal RNA gene patterns. Gut 39: 5 (NOV 1996): 634-638.

Checked 6/20/16

June 4th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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