Hypothesis: the changing relationships of Helicobacter pylori and humans: implications for health and disease

J Infect Dis. 1999 Jun;179(6):1523-30. doi: 10.1086/314785.


Helicobacter pylori has apparently colonized the human stomach since time immemorial and is superbly adapted for persistence. Several genotypes, including cag+, are associated with increased risk of gastric and duodenal diseases. With modern life, for probably the first time in human history, there are large numbers of noncolonized persons. Duodenal ulceration has been present essentially for only 200 years; that its incidence rose just as H. pylori was waning is best explained by changes in gastric microecology. As H. pylori is disappearing, duodenal ulceration and gastric cancer rates are falling. However, more proximal diseases, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), Barrett's esophagus, and adenocarcinomas of the gastric cardia and lower esophagus, are increasing; colonization with cag+ H. pylori strains appears protective against these diseases. Thus, in the 21st century, the continuing decline in H. pylori may lead to the disappearance of duodenal ulcers and distal gastric cancers and toward a marked increase in GERD, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Lecture
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / complications
  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Barrett Esophagus / complications
  • Barrett Esophagus / epidemiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Duodenal Ulcer / complications
  • Duodenal Ulcer / epidemiology*
  • Esophageal Diseases / complications
  • Esophageal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / complications
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications*
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / complications
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Stomach Ulcer / complications
  • Stomach Ulcer / epidemiology