Objectives: To document the epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori infection in a normal population, to assess asymptomatic H. pylori positive individuals for the presence of gastroduodenal disease, and to compare the macroscopic and microscopic findings at endoscopy in this group with those of patients presenting with dyspepsia.
Design/methods: Serum was collected from blood donors and assessed for the presence of anti-H. pylori IgG antibodies. A randomly selected group of asymptomatic blood donors and dyspeptic patients underwent endoscopy.
Results: The seroprevalence of H. pylori in 1000 subjects was 43.0%. The prevalence of infection increased from 29% in 18-30 year olds to 62% in 46-60 year olds (P < 0.01). The infection was more prevalent in individuals from social classes IV and V (50.0%) than social classes I and II (36.9%) (P < 0.01). There was no difference between the H. pylori positive asymptomatic individuals (n = 37) and matched dyspeptic patients (n = 29) at endoscopy with regard to duodenal ulcer (13.5% vs. 17.2%) or gastroduodenal erosions (24.3% vs. 20.7%) while 5.4% of the former had gastro-oesophageal reflux compared to 27.6% of the latter. Overall, 56.8% of the H. pylori positive asymptomatic group had a normal macroscopic endoscopy compared with 31% of the dyspeptic group. Histology of the gastric mucosa did not reveal any significant differences between the two groups. In H.pylori negative asymptomatic individuals (n = 13) 92.3% had a normal endoscopy (7.7% had grade I gastro-oesophageal reflux) compared with 61.5% of a matched dyspeptic group (n = 13).
Conclusion: H.pylori infection, symptomatic and asymptomatic, is associated with significant pathology, and screening for the infection may be indicated for the prevention of gastroduodenal diseases.