A role for Helicobacter pylori in triggering systemic sclerosis (SSc) has been proposed, but data are conflicting. In previous studies, infection has been generally searched for by using serology. We designed this study to assess H. pylori prevalence in SSc patients with histology of gastric mucosa, considered the criterion standard for infection diagnosis.
This cross-sectional study enrolled 30 SSc patients who complained of upper gastrointestinal symptoms. All underwent upper endoscopy with gastric biopsies. Endoscopic alterations were recorded, and gastric mucosa biopsies were used for both histological examination and searching for H. pylori. The role for proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy was considered. Fisher exact test was used for statistical analysis.
Data of 28 SSc patients were available, 14 with ongoing PPI therapy. Helicobacter pylori infection at histology was detected in 14.3% patients, and it equally occurred in patients with or without PPI therapy. Erosive esophagitis/Barrett esophagus was detected in 26.6% of cases. Among patients with PPI therapy, 30% received half dose only. The prevalence of intestinal metaplasia was low (14.3%). Endoscopic esophageal alterations were significantly more frequent in those patients showing anti-Scl70 antibody positivity.
This study showed that prevalence of H. pylori is very low in SSc patients, so that it seems not having a role in triggering SSc. Management of gastroesophageal diseases in SSc patients needs to be improved, and looking to the autoimmune profile may be of help. Thus, collaboration between rheumatologist and gastroenterologist is highly recommended.