It is Getting Harder to Treat H pylori -Here’s Why

In a recent study (A Savoldi et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1372-82, editorial pg 1287), the authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the prevalence of antibiotic resistance to Helicobacter pylori. The authors identified 178 studies with 66,142 H pylori isolates. Tables 2 & 3 provide comprehensive data.

Key points:

  • In the Americas region, primary resistance to clarithromycin, metronidazole, levofloxacin and amoxicillin was 10%, 23%, 15%, and 10% respectively.
  • In the European region, primary resistance to clarithromycin, metronidazole, levofloxacin and amoxicillin was 18%, 32%, 11%, and 0% respectively.

Antibiotic resistance is increasing: 

  • In the Americas region, resistance in 2006-2008 compared to 2012-201 for clarithromycin, & metronidazole: 11%–>20%, 26%–>29% respectively.
  • In the European region, resistance in 2006-2008 compared to 2012-201 for clarithromycin, & metronidazole: 28%–>28%, 38%–>46% respectively.
  • “The resistance rates to clarithromycin, metronidazole, and levofloxacin have increased over time in all WHO regions.”  Other regions with data in study included Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific.
  • In the study, the authors also “describe a clear significant association between antibiotic resistance and treatment failure.”

In their discussion, the authors note that the incidence of gastric cancer is higher in areas with increased antibiotic resistance.  Though there has been a decline in gastric cancer, “based on our data, we can hypothesize that this trend in reduction is expected to revert soon because available treatment can no longer guarantee a satisfactory eradication rate.”

From editorial:

  • H pylori is not one of those bacteria in which resistance develops as an epidemic by horizonatal transfer of mobile genetic elements…Resistance in H pylori only occurs unevenly by mutations…Fortunately, resistance occurs “very seldomly for …amoxicillin and tetracycline.”
  • Treatment failure is “almost 7 times greater (6.97) when the strain is clarithromycin resistant and even greater (8.18) when the strain is levofloxacin resistant.” Resistance to metronidazole confers a lesser degree of treatment failure risk: OR 2.52.

My take: This study provides some sobering news about H pylori prevalence and how it is becoming more difficult to treat.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Pooled Prevalence of resistance to clarithromycin (2006-2016). This is from Figure 2. Sections B & C (not shown) provide similar graphic info for metronidazole and levofloxacin

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