Ultrastructural examination of biopsies showing Helicobacter pylori associated chronic gastritis reveals close attachment between gastric surface epithelial cells and the organism. The finding of 'adhesion pedestals', which represents a cellular response to the presence of the organism, is analogous to the response of intestinal cells to enteropathogenic E coli. Thus the development of bacterial attachment sites in H pylori associated gastritis might be an indication of pathogenicity. We have therefore explored the relationship between the proportion of organisms forming attachment sites and histological indices of disease 'activity'. Antral biopsies from 40 patients with H pylori positive gastritis were examined histologically and ultrastructurally, and the percentage of attached organisms compared with subjective assessments of epithelial degeneration, mucin depletion, polymorphonuclear and chronic inflammatory cell infiltration. We found a significant increase in the proportion of attached bacteria in cases showing histological epithelial degeneration, and a significant decrease in cases showing intraepithelial polymorph infiltration. The direct relationship between bacterial attachment and cellular degeneration lends further support to a pathogenic effect. Reduced attachment in the face of polymorph infiltration might indirectly reflect aspects of the immune response--namely, blocking of adhesion by IgA, with complement activation and generation of leucotactic factors.
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