Background & aims: Cancer of the gallbladder is the number one cause of cancer mortality in Chilean women. Incidence rates for this tumor vary widely on a worldwide basis, being approximately 30 times higher in high-risk than in low-risk populations, suggesting that environmental factors such as infectious microorganisms, carcinogens, and nutrition play a role in its pathogenesis. Because several Helicobacter sp. colonize the livers of animals and induce hepatitis, the aim of this study was to determine whether Helicobacter infection was associated with cholecystitis in humans.
Methods: Bile or resected gallbladder tissue from 46 Chileans with chronic cholecystitis undergoing cholecystectomy were cultured for Helicobacter sp. and subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis using Helicobacter-specific 16S ribosomal RNA primers.
Results: Recovery of Helicobacter sp. from frozen specimens was unsuccessful. However, by PCR analysis, 13 of 23 bile samples and 9 of 23 gallbladder tissues were positive for Helicobacter. Eight of the Helicobacter-specific PCR amplicons were sequenced and subjected to phylogenetic analysis. Five sequences represented strains of H. bilis, two strains of "Flexispira rappini" (ATCC 49317), and one strain of H. pullorum.
Conclusions: These data support an association of bile-resistant Helicobacter sp. with gallbladder disease. Further studies are needed to ascertain whether similar Helicobacter sp. play a causative role in the development of gallbladder cancer.