Published online May 21, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i19.5632
Revised: December 16, 2013
Accepted: January 19, 2014
Published online: May 21, 2014
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a Gram negative pathogen that selectively colonizes the human gastric epithelium. Over 50% of the world population is infected with H. pylori reaching up to 90% of infected individuals in developing countries. Nonetheless the increased impact upon public health care, its reservoir and the transmission pathway of the species has not been clearly established yet. Molecular studies allowed the detection of H. pylori in various aquatic environments, even forming biofilm in tap water distribution systems in several countries, suggesting a role of water as a possible reservoir of the pathogen. The persistence of human infection with H. pylori and the resistance of clinical isolates to commonly used antibiotics in eradication therapy have been related to the genetic variability of the species and its ability to develop biofilm, demonstrated both in vivo and in vitro experiments. Thus, during the last years, experimental work with this pathogen has been focused in the search for biofilm inhibitors and biofilm destabilizing agents. However, only two anti- H. pylori biofilm disrupting agents have been successfully used: Curcumin - a natural dye - and N-acetyl cysteine - a mucolytic agent used in respiratory diseases. The main goal of this review was to discuss the evidences available in the literature supporting the ability of H. pylori to form biofilm upon various surfaces in aquatic environments, both in vivo and in vitro. The results published and our own observations suggest that the ability of H. pylori to form biofilm may be important for surviving under stress conditions or in the spread of the infection among humans, mainly through natural water sources and water distribution systems.
Core tip: This review deals with the ability of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) to form biofilm, and the role of the biofilm as reservoir for H. pylori infection. The ability of H. pylori to grow and form biofilm in vitro and in vivo could be advantageous for the species to successfully avoid injuries due to chemical stressors - such as antimicrobial therapy in vivo - or stress induced by nutrient deprivation. Therefore, the ability of H. pylori to form biofilm should be kept in mind when epidemiological strategies are planned to prevent the spread of this ubiquitous pathogen and for treatment of human infection.