Personal view: to treat or not to treat? Helicobacter pylori and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease - an alternative hypothesis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Feb 1;19(3):253-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.01847.x.


Helicobacter pylori causes acute on chronic gastritis and is responsible for most peptic ulcers and gastric cancer. However, recent papers have suggested that it may protect against gastro-oesophageal reflux, Barrett's oesophagus and oesophageal cancer. Furthermore, the rapid increase in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, Barrett's oesophagus and adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus in the developed world has been attributed by some to the falling prevalence of H. pylori. These considerations have led to the suggestion that H. pylori infection should not necessarily be treated, especially in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Conversely, data from prospective randomized studies have shown that H. pylori eradication does not cause gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in patients with duodenal ulcer or in the normal population, nor does it worsen the outcome of pre-existing gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Therefore, although H. pylori is negatively associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, its eradication does not induce the disease. A hypothesis is presented suggesting that the increased prevalence of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a result of rising acid secretion in the general population, which, in turn, is a consequence of the increased linear height (a predictor of acid secretion). The greater acid secretion could also explain the decline in the prevalence of H. pylori and perhaps account for the inverse relationship between H. pylori and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. These considerations are explored in discussing whether H. pylori infection should be treated in infected patients presenting with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.

MeSH terms

  • Gastric Acid / metabolism
  • Gastritis / microbiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / microbiology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Helicobacter Infections / therapy*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Peptic Ulcer / microbiology
  • Peptic Ulcer / therapy