Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a gram-negative, spiral-shaped bacterium native to the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It has an affinity for the acidic environment of the gastric mucosa. Estimates say that up to 50% of the world’s population carries H. pylori in their GI tracts. H. pylori is spread through direct contact with individuals or household pets through saliva, feces, or contaminated food or water.
Humanity’s relationship with H. pylori is ambiguous. H. pylori can have a commensal or symbiotic relationship with its human host.
H. pylori colonizes and multiplies in the duodenum and gastric mucosa, secreting urease, the enzyme that converts urea to ammonia. Alkaline ammonia buffers the naturally low pH of the stomach, providing the optimal environment for H. pylori to live.