Background: Several studies have shown the presence of Helicobacter species in the human biliary tract and in the intestinal tract of animals. In this study, the presence of Helicobacter species in liver samples from patients with primary hepatic carcinomas was evaluated.
Methods: Sixteen liver specimens were studied (8 from patients with primary liver carcinoma and 8 from patients without primary liver carcinoma). Histology with standard stains, culture, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification using two sets of primers located in the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) were used to detect the presence of bacteria. Amplified products were sequenced to determine the genus and species of the bacteria. A search for other genes that were specific for Helicobacter pylori also was carried out by PCR.
Results: PCR performed with the 16S rDNA primers revealed the presence of bacteria from the genus Helicobacter in all of the liver specimens from patients with primary liver carcinoma (eight of eight patients) and in one specimen from a patient without primary liver carcinoma (one of eight patients). When the nucleotide sequence of > 80% of the 16S rDNA was determined, the closest similarity was with the 16S rDNA from H. pylori in eight patients. In 1 patient sample from which only 398 nucleotides were sequenced, the closest match was Helicobacter felis.
Conclusions: The results presented in this study indicate that Helicobacter species can be present in the liver of patients with primary hepatic carcinoma, but their eventual role in the carcinogenesis process, although it is plausible, remains to be proven. Based on sequence similarity, it seems that Helicobacter species that are related closely to H. pylori but are distinct from it have been found.