Helicobacter pylori infection, reflux esophagitis, and atrophic gastritis: an unexplored triangle

Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Mar;93(3):394-400. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1998.00394.x.


Objective: H. pylori causes chronic gastritis, which may progress to peptic ulcer, gastric atrophy, or gastric cancer. However, little is known about the role of H. pylori infection in reflux esophagitis and the relationship between reflux esophagitis and atrophic gastritis needs to be clarified. We sought to identify the possible interrelationships among Helicobacter pylori infection, reflux esophagitis, and atrophic gastritis, to signal areas in which researchers should consider focusing their attention.

Methods: A broad-based Medline search was performed to identify all related publications addressing H. pylori infection, atrophic gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), secretion of gastric acid, and gastric motility published between 1966 and July 1997.

Results: Whereas some studies have shown no significant association between H. pylori infection and reflux esophagitis, others have observed that the prevalence of H. pylori infection was lower in patients with GERD, implying a protective role. Eradication of H. pylori leads to occurrence of reflux esophagitis in some cases, but the mechanisms inducing posteradication reflux esophagitis are unknown. H. pylori infection may lead to atrophic gastritis (and hence hypochlorhydia) through both bacterial and host factors, although gastric atrophy and subsequent intestinal metaplasia are hostile to H. pylori because of hypochlorhydria. Although it has been reported that long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy for refractory reflux esophagitis may induce or enhance the development of gastric atrophy in H. pylori-infected patients, this relationship has been disputed.

Conclusions: H. pylori infection may be negatively associated with reflux esophagitis, but this requires confirmation. Research then needs to focus on whether this is explained through motility- or acid-related mechanisms. The potential costs of maintenance antireflux therapy may need to be taken into account when evaluating the cost effectiveness of anti-H. pylori therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Esophagitis, Peptic / etiology*
  • Esophagitis, Peptic / physiopathology
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / etiology*
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications*
  • Helicobacter Infections / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans