Helicobacter pylori impairs iron absorption in infected individuals

Dig Liver Dis. 2004 Jul;36(7):455-60. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2004.02.008.


Background: Infection with Helicobacter pylori is recognised as a major risk factor for chronic gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. The association between H. pylori infection and iron deficiency anaemia has been established. Multiple mechanisms have been advocated to explain the relationship between H. pylori and iron status and their association might reduce iron deposit.

Aim: Aim of this study was to investigate whether H. pylori infection affects iron absorption.

Methods: The study was designed on a prospective basis. Fifty-five subjects underwent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy to investigate the presence of H. pylori and, when this was positive, also search of serum anti-CagA was performed. Tests included an oral iron absorption test with the administration of 1 mg/kg of Fe2+. Iron levels were measured before and 2 h after iron administration (delta iron). H. pylori-positive subjects were administered antibiotic therapy for 1 week and, 2 months later, the oral iron absorption test was repeated and urea-breath test was first performed.

Results: H. pylori-positive subjects had lower serum level of ferritin and lower delta iron compared to H. pylori-negative subjects. That difference is significant in anaemic women and is independent of the presence of serum anti-CagA antibodies. After H. pylori eradication iron absorption test was similar to those of non-infected subjects.

Conclusion: H. pylori infection impairs iron uptake. That mechanism, together with others, may contribute to the depletion of iron in infected patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Helicobacter Infections / drug therapy
  • Helicobacter Infections / metabolism*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ferritins
  • Iron