Helicobacter pylori (HP) infection is the main etiopathogenetic agent responsible for inflammatory and ulcerative changes in gastroduodenal mucosa and the basis for both intestinal and diffuse types of gastric carcinoma. In this latter case, intestinal metaplasia is the intermediary between gastritis and cancer. In this study we describe the proliferative activity of gastric epithelium in the progressive stages of HP infection. The expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), which has proven to be a reliable method for this evaluation was used as a marker. The study was performed on endoscopic biopsies of the gastric antrum of 40 patients, who were divided into five groups, eight in each group: normal histology and endoscopy, HP-; histological HP+ gastritis with normal endoscopy; histological HP+ gastritis with endoscopic evidence of chronic erosions; complete and incomplete intestinal metaplasia in a HP+ stomach. PCNA wad detected by immunohistochemistry and expressed as labeling index, ie, percentage of positive nuclei either in the whole or upper third of foveolae. Our data show a progressive increase of epithelial proliferation in the successive stages of HP infection ranging from gastritis alone to the development of incomplete intestinal metaplasia, a well-known precancerous condition. The proliferative pattern tended to expand towards the upper foveolar third, which in normal conditions does not represent a site of epithelial renewal. These alterations may be related to the development of neoplastic transformations of gastric epithelium. It is well known that genetic mutations are facilitated in proliferating cells. Therefore, our results indicate that the high epithelial turnover, expressed by PCNA LI, may be an indicator of increased risk of neoplastic changes in long-standing untreated HP- chronic gastritis.
- Chronic gastritis
- Helicobacter pylori
- Intestinal metaplasia
- Proliferating cell nuclear antigen
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