Background: The long-term course of Helicobacter pylori gastritis is not well known because there are few follow-up studies available, and the follow-up time has been short.
Methods: The progression of H. pylori infection and chronic gastritis was retrospectively examined in 102 patients followed up for 32 years. In all patients a blind suction biopsy from the corpus mucosa was taken in 1952, and an endoscopic re-examination with biopsy specimens from the antrum and corpus was performed in 1983.
Results: In the first examination 85 patients (83%) were H. pylori-positive as assessed from Giemsa-stained corpus mucosa specimens as compared with 70 H. pylori-positive patients (69%) at the end of the follow-up (1983). Two of the 17 patients who were initially H. pylori-negative became positive in 1983, implying an infection rate of 0.4% per patient-year. On the other hand, 17 of the 85 patients who were initially H. pylori-positive became negative in 1983, representing a disappearance rate of 0.6%. However, the stomach became completely normal in only eight cases, which represents a healing rate of 0.3% per patient-year. All patients with duodenal ulcer disease were H. pylori-positive at the first examination and remained so during the follow-up. In these patients chronic gastritis affected predominantly the antral mucosa, and corpus atrophy did not develop. Parietal cell antibodies appeared during the follow-up in six cases, and five of them were H. pylori-positive at the first examination. In most of these cases gastritis progressed into severe grades of corpus atrophy accompanied by the disappearance of H. pylori infection and normalization of the antral mucosa.
Conclusions: New H. pylori infection and complete healing of infected mucosa may occur in adult life, but this is rare. Duodenal ulcer disease is associated with persistent H. pylori infection and absence of corpus atrophy. The appearance of parietal cell antibodies leads to progression of corpus atrophy and disappearance of H. pylori.