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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Helicobacter...

... is the name of a bacteria (bacterium actually), that can be found within the stomach wall in humans, and other species including dogs and cats. They thrive in the acidic environment of the stomach, which caused a sensation when first proposed, as it was believed that nothing could survive in an environment with such a low pH. That is not the case.
This bacterium, which literally, reminds me of a helicopter due to its propeller-like flagellum, is responsible for over 90 percent of cases of peptic ulcers and other serious gastrointestinal disorders in humans. Ulceration is cured with the eradication of the infection. Period. Barry Marshall, an Australian scientist, went so far as to infect himself with the bacteria in order to prove his theory. Indeed, he became severely ill and developed gastric ulcers. For his work, in 2005, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Dr. Marshall and his long-time collaborator Dr. Warren "for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease".

Interestingly, the role of Helicobacter infection in dogs and cats is not known. Many clinically healthy dogs and cats harbor Helicobacter in their gut - and show no signs of disease. However, some dogs and cats with clinical and histological (sections of tissue) evidence of inflammatory bowel disease/chronic gastritis also show the presence of Helicobacter bacteria in their GI tissues. Just FYI, Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease in humans.
So what to do? Thus far, it is recommended to treat the Helicobacter infection first. If symptoms disappear: great. If not, treatment for inflammatory bowel disease is instituted, consisting mainly of immunosuppressive doses of prednisone or prednisolone.

I have just recently diagnosed a cat with inflammatory bowel disease with evidence of a concurrent Helicobacter infection.
My plan is to treat for Helicobacter infection, then re-evaluate. It will be interesting to see what develops.


Little spirally helicopters.
More FYI: Heliko = spiral or helix in Greek.

3 comments:

brebis noire said...

Interesting post - I didn't know that Helicobacter could be an issue in cats and dogs, though now you mention it, I do vaguely remember some mention of it in vet school.
Which antibiotic would you use to clear the infection? Would you consider giving probiotics/probiotic yogourt at the same time?

TorontoVet said...

In people and dogs, typical treatment includes amoxicillin, metronidazole, (+/- clarithromycin), and an H2 blocker such as ranitidine or famotidine or a proton pump inhibitor (such as the newer Nexiums and the like).
I have also read protocols for humans that involve ONE DAY THERAPY with medications from the above list.
I am not a huge fan of yogurt in small animals, though many, many people are. I don't like to introduce lactose (in all milk products), which, by itself, can cause gastro-intestinal upset.
As Helicobacter bacteria are found in the crypts of the stomach wall, I don't believe there is a lack of small intestinal flora in the intestine, precluding the need for yogurt or probiotics.

brebis noire said...

Thanks. In cases where the animal has had a cocktail of antibiotics and there are still issues with loose stool or even...flatulence, I often use (or recommend, rather) yogourt pills . It seems to work, but that's totally anecdotal (in one case, it was my own cat.) I should have said "after treatment with antibiotics...".