Smoking, alcohol and coffee consumption, and H pylori infection

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7136.1019 (Published 28 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1019

Alcohol consumption eliminates rather than prevents infection with H pylori

  1. Francesco Luzza, Senior researcher,
  2. Maria Imeneo, Research assistant,
  3. Maria Maletta, Research assistant,
  4. Francesco Pallone, Professor of gastroenterology
  1. Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Clinica, Universita di Catanzaro, Catanzaro, Italy
  2. Department of General Practice, Utrecht University, NL-3508 TA Utrecht, Netherlands
  3. University of Ulm, Department of Epidemiology, D-89069 Ulm, Germany
  4. University of Ulm, Department of Internal Medicine I, D-89069 Ulm, Germany

    EDITOR—Brenner et al conclude that alcohol consumption may have a protective effect against infection with Helicobacter pylori.1 H pylori infection is commonly acquired during childhood and spontaneous elimination may occur, usually in young children and elderly people, but it may be acquired and eliminated spontaneously throughout adulthood.2 Drinking alcohol is usually an adult habit, and if alcohol does have a protective effect against infection with H pylori we can assume that it eradicates the infection rather than prevents it. Alcohol consumption may therefore have a role only in those few people in whom spontaneous elimination of the bacterium is thought to have occurred.2

    If alcohol does protect against H pylori infection then the number of years for which it has been consumed is probably important, and not just the amount consumed, particularly when overall consumption is low. Brenner et al do not, however, give data on lifetime alcohol consumption in their series. Finally, socioeconomic factors in childhood, such as low social class, manual occupation of the parents, and measures of crowding have been consistently identified as major risk factors for infection with H pylori,3 but they were not adjusted for in the multivariate analysis in the authors' study.

    We recently conducted a seroepidemiological study of H pylori infection in 705 residents in the rural town of Cirò, a wine producing centre in southern Italy.4 A structured questionnaire was administered to all subjects. The table shows …

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