Health Questions and Answers

Question: Why is Helicobacter pylori a unique bacterium?


H. pylori is a spiral-shaped, gram-negative bacterium, 0.5 microns in width and 2-6.5 microns in length. It is distinguished by its multiple sheathed, unipolar flagella and potent urease activity; urease accounts for more than 1% of the organism’s protein weight. Its shape and flagella allow penetration of and movement through the gastric mucus layer while its urease activity appears essential for colonization and survival. H. pylori is unique in its ability to survive within the hostile acid environment of the stomach. Although gastric bacteria were described as early as the turn of the 20th century, their importance in peptic ulcer disease and chronic gastritis was not appreciated until the 1980s. H. pylori was first successfully cultured in 1982 by Marshall and Warren.


  • Marshall BJ, Warren JR: Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration. Lancet 1:1311-1315, 1984.

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