Indexed on: 05 Feb '08Published on: 05 Feb '08Published in: Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
The initial discovery that the human stomach is commonly infected by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori subsequently resulted in the identification of a whole new family of pathogenic bacteria. In less than 25 years, the Helicobacter genus has grown from obscurity to number at least 38 different species with many more awaiting classifications. These bacteria, many of which are either direct or opportunistic pathogens, are present in virtually every mammalian species examined, and have also now been identified in a number of birds. The pathogenesis associated with these infections is predominantly the result of a chronic inflammatory response mounted by the host against the infection. This is typically a Th1-driven response which can result in a range of conditions from hepatitis, through gallstones to cancer. In some cases the inflammatory response to these infections is normally well managed by the host and disease only results when there is a breakdown or misbalance in the immunoregulatory process, which for example can result in inflammatory bowel disease in experimental models. Understanding the disease association and pathogenic mechanisms of the different Helicobacter infections is clearly of potential significance not only from an animal welfare point of view but also from the growing realisation of how commonly transmission of Helicobacter occurs between different mammals, including pathogenic zoonotic infections of humans.