The discovery of Helicobacter pylori infection in 1984 revolutionised the management of several common upper gastrointestinal diseases. However, some of the clinical practices that were adopted following discovery of this organism have become less appropriate over the intervening years. This article discusses five ‘myths and misconceptions’ that we believe have now emerged and which we argue need re-evaluation. Although the prevalence of H. pylori infection is decreasing in some developed countries, it remains a huge global problem and the most serious consequence of infection, gastric adenocarcinoma, is still a major cause of mortality. The epidemiology of H. pylori-related diseases is also changing and careful testing remains crucially important, especially in patients with peptic ulceration. Eradication of H. pylori infection has also become much more difficult over recent years as a result of the widespread acquisition of antibiotic resistance. Routine assessment of the success of eradication should therefore now be performed. Finally, there has been increased awareness about the role of H. pylori in the multistep pathway of gastric carcinogenesis, about the opportunities to prevent cancer development by eradicating this infection in some individuals and about detecting high-risk preneoplastic changes via endoscopic surveillance. The discovery of H. pylori was rightly honoured by the award of the Nobel prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2005. However, unless we re-evaluate and update the ways in which we manage H. pylori infection, much of the fantastic progress that has been made in this field of medicine may tragically be lost once again.
- helicobacter pylori
- gastric carcinoma
- duodenal ulcer
- helicobacter therapy
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Contributors JB and DMP wrote sections of the first draft of this review and revised the final article.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests DMP has received consultancy funding from Ipsen, Advanced Accelerator Applications and Mayoly Spindler laboratories and research funding to investigate gastric NETs from Trio Medicines Ltd. JB received consultancy funding from Mayoly Spindler laboratories.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.