Background & aims: Helicobacter pylori is not usually found in areas of intestinal metaplasia. Thus, the development of intestinal metaplasia has been viewed as a mechanism by which the stomach eliminates H. pylori. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency of H. pylori adherence to intestinal metaplasia in different populations.
Methods: Mapped gastric biopsy specimens from 378 H. pylori-positive subjects from various geographical regions were examined. Intestinal metaplasia was typed by staining with periodic acid-Schiff/alcian blue and high-iron diamine/alcian blue.
Results: In 32 patients, H. pylori was found in intimate contact with intestinal metaplasia. This was documented by electron microscopy. All areas of intestinal metaplasia showing adherence contained sulfomucins and had no brush border. Posttreatment biopsy specimens from 4 patients whose infection was not cured showed persistence of H. pylori in intestinal metaplasia.
Conclusions: These patients may have a strain of H. pylori with unusual adhesion characteristics, or their type of intestinal metaplasia may have biochemical properties that make it hospitable for H. pylori. The exclusive association of H. pylori adherence with incomplete intestinal metaplasia (a putative precursor of carcinoma) and its greater frequency in Koreans (a population at risk for gastric cancer) suggest that this phenomenon may play a role in the hypothetical sequence metaplasia > dysplasia > carcinoma.