Helicobacter pylori modulation of gastric acid

Yale J Biol Med. Mar-Jun 1999;72(2-3):195-202.


Helicobacter pylori plays major causative roles in peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Elevated acid secretion in patients with duodenal ulcers (DUs) contributes to duodenal injury, and diminished acid secretion in patients with gastric cancer allows carcinogen-producing bacteria to colonize the stomach. Eradication of H. pylori normalizes acid secretion both in hyper-secreting DU patients and hypo-secreting relatives of gastric cancer patients. Therefore, we and others have asked how H. pylori causes these disparate changes in acid secretion. H. pylori gastritis more or less restricted to the gastric antrum in DU patients is associated with increased acid secretion. This is probably because gastritis increases release of the antral acid-stimulating hormone gastrin and diminished mucosal expression of the inhibitory peptide somatostatin. Bacterial products and inflammatory cytokines including TNFalpha may cause these changes in endocrine function. Gastritis involving the gastric corpus tends to diminish acid secretion, probably because bacterial products and cytokines including IL-1 inhibit parietal cells. Pharmacological inhibition of acid secretion increases corpus gastritis in H. pylori-infected subjects, so it is envisaged that gastric hypo-secretion of any cause might become self-perpetuating. H. pylori-associated mucosal atrophy will also contribute to acid hypo-secretion and is more likely in when the diet is high in salt or lacking in antioxidant vitamins. Data on gastric acid secretion in patients with esophagitis are limited but suggest that acid secretion is normal or slightly diminished. Nevertheless, H. pylori infection may be relevant to the management of esophagitis because: (i) H. pylori infection increases the pH-elevating effect of acid inhibiting drugs; (ii) proton pump inhibitors may increase the tendency of H. pylori to cause atrophic gastritis; and (iii) successful eradication of H. pylori is reported to increase the likelihood of esophagitis developing in patients who had DU disease. Points (ii) and (iii) remain controversial and more work is clearly required to elucidate the relationship between H. pylori, acid secretion, gastric mucosa atrophy and esophagitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Digestive System / cytology*
  • Digestive System / microbiology*
  • Gastric Acid / metabolism*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / metabolism*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans