Published online Jan 21, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i3.654
Revised: November 18, 2013
Accepted: January 2, 2014
Published online: January 21, 2014
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection is investigated in gastric diseases even during pregnancy. In particular, this Gram-negative bacterium seems to be associated with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. During the last decade, the relationship among H. pylori and several extra-gastric diseases strongly emerged in literature. The correlation among H. pylori infection and pregnancy-related disorders was mainly focused on iron deficiency anemia, thrombocytopenia, fetal malformations, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. H. pylori infection may have a role in the pathogenesis of various pregnancy-related disorders through different mechanisms: depletion of micronutrients (iron and vitamin B12) in maternal anemia and fetal neural tube defects; local or systemic induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines release and oxidative stress in gastrointestinal disorders and pre-eclampsia; cross-reaction between specific anti-H. pylori antibodies and antigens localized in placental tissue and endothelial cells (pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, miscarriage). Since H. pylori infection is most likely acquired before pregnancy, it is widely believed that hormonal and immunological changes occurring during pregnancy could activate latent H. pylori with a negative impact not only on maternal health (nutritional deficiency, organ injury, death), but also on the fetus (insufficient growth, malformation, death) and sometime consequences can be observed later in life. Another important issue addressed by investigators was to determine whether it is possible to transmit H. pylori infection from mother to child and whether maternal anti-H. pylori antibodies could prevent infant’s infection. Studies on novel diagnostic and therapeutic methods for H. pylori are no less important, since these are particularly sensitive topics in pregnancy conditions. It could be interesting to study the possible correlation between H. pylori infection and other pregnancy-related diseases of unknown etiology, such as gestational diabetes mellitus, obstetric cholestasis and spontaneous preterm delivery. Since H. pylori infection is treatable, the demonstration of its causative role in pregnancy-related disorders will have important social-economic implications.
Core tip:Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in pregnancy is not only associated with gastrointestinal disorders such as hyperemesis gravidarum, but also with iron deficiency anemia, fetal malformations, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. These pregnancy related-disorders are potentially life-threatening for both mother and fetus/neonate. Another important issue that has been addressed in literature was the question of whether it is possible to transmit H. pylori infection from mother to child and whether maternal anti-H. pylori antibodies could prevent infant’s infection. Indeed, if H. pylori is actually a causal factor, the public health implications would be important since the infection is treatable.