Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are bacteria involved in stomach ulcers?

Gastric ulceration, affecting the non-glandular portion of the equine stomach, has been the focus of attention in recent years. Ulcers are also found less frequently in the glandular portion of the stomach. In humans such lesions have been associated with bacterial infections.

The micro-organism Helicobacter pyloris has been implicated in a number of human medical conditions, including chronic gastritis, gastric ulcers, and neoplasia. Could similar organisms be involved in gastric lesions in horses? A Danish study has been investigating.

Lead researcher Dr Louise Husted completed the research as part of her PhD studies, with assistance from colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Denmark.

She examined specimens collected from an abattoir, and found lesions on the glandular mucosa in 36 of 63 stomachs. These included hyperplastic rugae (13), polypoid structures (2), and focal erosions (21).

In general, very few bacteria were associated with the gastric mucosa in either the damaged or normal stomach. No Helicobacter was found.

However, one stomach did contain a single erosion 1x2cm in size, which was colonised by bacteria. No bacteria were found in the surrounding normal gastric mucosa.

Cloning analysis of the bacteria showed them to be a mixed infection of Enterococcus faecium and an Escherichia-like organism, which was identified as most likely to be Escherichia fergusonii.

E. fergusonii has been reported as an emerging pathogen in human medicine and in some animal species.

Dr Husted suggests that further work needs to be done to clarify whether the organism is a significant pathogen in horses.

"Detection of a moderate to high amounts of any bacteria at the glandular mucosa level, as well as in the crypts should be cause for concern as this does not appear to be a normal finding in the equine glandular mucosa".

This study did not involve clinical cases. Dr Husted suggests that further studies of bacteria and their relationship to lesions in horses with clinical signs of gastric ulceration are warranted.

The open access report is available at http://biomedcentral.com/1471-2180/10/84

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