45% of patients infected with H. pylori do not receive proper treatment, 1st of its kind study finds

A new study published in Nature found major gaps in the treatments of patients infected with Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that can lead to stomach ulcers and is persistently found to be a risk factor for gastric cancer — the fourth-deadliest cancer worldwide. 

It is something that nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are infected with at some point. Normally, H. pylori can be treated with antibiotics early on, but when left untreated can lead to detrimental health outcomes. However, this treatment, sometimes referred to as "HP eradication," has seen rising rates of failure in the U.S. because of antibiotic resistance. 

Specifically, these gaps were found in the selection of both first- and second-line therapy for infected patients. One major reason behind the gaps, is a lack of information.

"In the U.S., there are no large-scale HP registries to track local HP antibiotic resistance rates and regimen-specific success rates, nor are HP antibiotic susceptibility data easy to obtain," the authors of the study wrote. Which is why researchers, led by Shailja Shah, MD, set out to understand more about treatment patterns in patients with the diagnosis. 

The study — which is said to be the first of its kind to analyze U.S. population-based analysis to review current HP treatment patterns and eradication rates — found that "45.3 percent of patients with HP infection either did not receive a guideline-recommended treatment or received a potentially inappropriate regimen based on prior antibiotic use."

"I commend Dr. Shailja Shah and the co-authors for this critical evaluation of H. pylori infection and its treatment in the U.S. population," Yanghee Woo, MD, a surgical oncologist and gastric cancer specialist at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., told Becker's in reaction to the findings. Dr. Woo was not involved in the study, but as a gastric cancer expert herself, stressed the importance of more research in this area. 

"This study highlights the gaps in guidelines and clinical practice by identifying areas where improved real-world practices can help eradicate H. pylori infections," Dr. Woo told Becker's. "The findings of this study strongly support the urgent call for a national policy-directed comprehensive program to address H. pylori infections in the U.S. and improve the cancer health of our ethnic communities."

In the study's conclusion, Dr. Shah and her team point out the massive need for additional research as well as consistent and thorough tracking of HP data throughout the U.S., commenting that "there are major opportunities to improve post-eradication testing and registration of patients undergoing treatment."

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