Background: Helicobacter pylori infection in humans is a major risk factor for peptic ulcer, but studies on the relation between H. pylori infection and gastric pathology are limited due to a deficiency of convenient animal models resembling this infection in humans.
Methods: We studied the effects of inoculation of conventional BALB/c mice with CagA and VacA positive (type I) H. pylori or CagA and VacA negative H. pylori (type II) strains on gastric secretion and healing of chronic acetic acid-induced ulcers in mouse stomachs. The ulcer area, gastric blood flow, plasma interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-12, as well as plasma gastrin and gastric luminal somatostatin were determined. Gastric mucosal biopsy samples were also taken for assessment of the presence of viable H. pylori using a rapid urease test, H. pylori-culture and the RT-PCR analysis of the signal for H. pylori CagA.
Results: Gastric acid and pepsin secretion was reduced by over 50% immediately after H. pylori inoculation and accompanied by a significant increment in plasma gastrin and fall in gastric luminal somatostatin content observed over all test days, particularly in mice infected with type I H. pylori. The area of ulcers in vehicle-treated controls decreased significantly starting from day 2 after ulcer induction and then continued to decline for a further 14 days to heal almost completely after 28 days. In contrast, the ulcers were present until day 28 in all mice infected with type I or type II H. pylori strains, being significantly larger, especially with type I H. pylori infection. The gastric blood flow at the ulcer margin and ulcer crater in vehicle-treated mice gradually increased with decreasing ulcer size, after 14 and 28 days reaching a value which was not significantly different from that in vehicle-administered mice. In contrast, the gastric blood flow in type I H. pylori and, to a lesser extent, in type II H. pylori infected mice was significantly lower than in vehicle controls, both at the margin and at the crater of ulcers at all tested days. Histological changes such as oedema or congestion of surface epithelium were found after 7 days whereas mucosal inflammatory infiltration appeared after 14 days with a further increase after 28 days, especially in type I H. pylori and to a lesser extent in type II H. pylori infected mice. Plasma IL-1beta and IL-12 were significantly elevated at all tested days of ulcer healing and their increments were significantly higher in type I than in type II H. pylori infection.
Conclusions: Conventional mice with gastric ulcers can be successfully infected by both toxigenic and nontoxigenic H. pylori strains, and this infection causes an immediate suppression of gastric secretion and markedly delays the healing of ulcers due to the fall in mucosal microcirculation in the ulcer region, cytokine release and an impairment in the gastrin-somatostatin link that appears to be independent of gastritis and more pronounced with infection of toxigenic than nontoxigenic strains.