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Stomach ulcer and bad breath? Could be symptoms of an infection

H. pylori affects two-thirds of the world’s population

Gulf News

Dubai: If you regularly suffer from abdominal pain, nausea, flatulence, and halitosis or bad breath, doctors said it is best not to brush these aside as they could be symptoms of a gastric infection resulting from a bacteria that thrives in the human stomach that could later develop complications.

“Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria live in the stomach against all the odds, meaning it survives even if the stomach secretes natural acids that kill bacteria inside,” Dr Mahmoud Hamouri, consultant internist, gastroenterologist in Al Baraha Hospital, and conference speaker, told Gulf News at a gathering of health professionals in Dubai on Saturday.

According to the National Cancer Institute, H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium found in the stomach of about two-thirds of the world’s population. It is prevalent in developing countries with poor sanitary conditions. Unfortunately, no study has yet successfully traced the origin of the bacteria. But what is known is that it can be transmitted from faecal to oral, gastro to oral, or oral to oral through kissing.

“H. pylori affects up to 70 per cent of the population here, that is because Dubai is a cosmopolitan city and you find people coming from places where there is a high prevalence of the infection,” Dr Hamouri said during the Third Family Medicine Symposium at Al Bustan Rotana on Saturday.

About 80 per cent of people affected with H. pylori will be asymptomatic, while the rest may have symptoms. Up to 15 per cent of people with H. pylori may develop gastric and duodenal ulcers, while one to three per cent may develop malignancy which could lead to stomach cancer, according to figures cited by Dr Hamouri.

Dr Mariam Shaker, Family Medicine Consultant and Medical Director of Al Muhaisnah Health Centre, told Gulf News that most of the cases they handle in primary health care centres in the UAE suffer from gastric problems and many of the symptoms are associated with H. pylori infection.

Dr Mariam said early detection and treatment is advised, coupled with lifestyle modification. Proper sanitary practices such as hand washing should be done in order to best prevent the spread of the infection.