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Infectious Diseases

H. Pylori - transmission

10/06/1998

Question:

My doctor is going to test me for h. pylori (in three weeks). In the meantime... if I go on a date and want to kiss someone goodnight, is there a danger of transmitting it (presuming that I have it)?

Answer:

Helicobacter pylori is a flagellated, highly motile, microaerophilic,curved gram-negative rod that can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. It has been associated with gastritis, gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastric cancer. Most of this information comes from the Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program in the Subspecialty of Infectious Diseases, 1994.

It appears to infect people worldwide, but usually after the age of 10, and by adulthood some studies estimate that as many as 75% of people can be infected. Transmission presumably occurs from one person to another, but the exact routes have not been defined. Most likely it occurs during close personal contact via infected oral secretions or via fecal-oral transmission (it has been cultured from stool).

Many people infected with H. pylori are totally asymptomatic. For those with gastrointestinal complaints, diagnosis can be made via endoscopy with biopsy, a blood test, or with a urea breath test. There are pluses and minuses for each route, that your doctor could further discuss.

Treatment has been greatly improved in the last couple of years for persons with symptomatic disease. Various combinations of drugs are now used that include one or more oral antibiotics, Pepto Bismal, and often a drug to decrease stomach acid. Treatment of persons with H. pylori infection without any symptoms is not currently recommended.

To answer your question, kissing may possibly transmit H. pylori infection to another adult, although there is a good chance that the other person may already be infected with it but without symptoms. And, it is readily treated if necessary.

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Response by:

Kenneth   Skahan, MD Kenneth Skahan, MD
Assistant Professor in Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati