- Harrisburg, PA -- Penn State Harrisburg
researchers report they have found the first direct link between the presence
of a bacterium in Pennsylvania drinking water and stomach ulcers.
- The research team headed by Katherine
H. Baker, assistant professor of environmental microbiology, revealed this
week it has tied Helicobacter pylori in well water and clinical infection
in persons drinking from that supply. Helicobacter pylori is an organism
linked to the cause of at least 75 percent of all stomach ulcers and two
types of stomach cancers.
- The Penn State Harrisburg researchers
made the association between water containing H. pylori and the infection
through tests of private wells supplying drinking water to individual households.
Interviews with residents who consumed the water found a statistically
significant correlation between presence of the bacterium and cases of
- Baker said drinking water is generally
considered safe when coliform bacterium is not present. But the ulcer-causing
bacterium was found in coliform-free water samples, she added. "What
this really means is that our current methods for testing drinking water
may be saying that water is fine while H. pylori may actually be present,"
- The research findings, released at a
meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Chicago, was described
by the team as the first to "demonstrate a direct link between contaminated
drinking water and stomach ulcers." Baker said the study involved
private, untreated water supplies and not municipal water sources, which
are less likely to contain the organism.
- Working with Jon Hegarty, a graduate
student in the Penn State Harrisburg Environmental Pollution Control program,
Baker previously identified the presence of H. pylori in well and surface
waters in the region more than one year ago.
- In that study, the bacterium was found
in more than 75 percent of the tested surface water samples. That research
represented the first report of live H. pylori in surface water in the
United States, demonstrating a major reservoir for the organism outside
the human body.
- In the United States, an estimated 2.5
million new H. pylori infections occur each year. Peptic ulcer disease
affects nearly 5 million people with treatment costs exceeding $5 billion,
not including indirect costs due to work and productivity loss. Approximately
16,000 deaths are attributed annually to complications of peptic ulcer
- Note: This story has been adapted from
a news release issued by Penn State for journalists and other members
of the public. If you wish to quote from any part of this story, please
credit Penn State as the original source. You may also wish to include
the following link in any citation: <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990609072904.htmhttp://www.scien
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