Helicobacter is a genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of Gram-negative
Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria that do not retain crystal violet dye in the Gram staining protocol. In a Gram stain test, a counterstain is added after the crystal violet, coloring all Gram-negative bacteria with a red or pink color...

Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 possessing a characteristic helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 shape. They were initially considered to be members of the Campylobacter
Campylobacter is a genus of bacteria that are Gram-negative, spiral, and microaerophilic. Motile, with either unipolar or bipolar flagella, the organisms have a characteristic spiral/corkscrew appearance and are oxidase-positive. Campylobacter jejuni is now recognized as one of the main causes...

genus, but since 1989 they have been grouped in their own genus. The Helicobacter genus belongs to class Epsilonproteobacteria, order Campylobacterales, family Helicobacteraceae and already involves >35 species.

Some species have been found living in the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract, as well as the liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

 of mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and some bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s. The most widely known species of the genus is H. pylori
Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori , previously named Campylobacter pyloridis, is a Gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium found in the stomach. It was identified in 1982 by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who found that it was present in patients with chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers, conditions that were...

which infects up to 50% of the human population. Some strains of this bacterium are pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

ic to humans as it is strongly associated with peptic ulcer
Peptic ulcer
A peptic ulcer, also known as PUD or peptic ulcer disease, is the most common ulcer of an area of the gastrointestinal tract that is usually acidic and thus extremely painful. It is defined as mucosal erosions equal to or greater than 0.5 cm...

s, chronic gastritis
Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach, and has many possible causes. The main acute causes are excessive alcohol consumption or prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Sometimes gastritis develops after major surgery, traumatic...

, duodenitis
Duodenitis is inflammation of the duodenum. It may persist acutely or chronically.-Causes:Known causes of duodenitis include:* Bacterial infection * Gastroesophageal reflux disease* Viral infection* NSAIDs...

, and stomach cancer
Stomach cancer
Gastric cancer, commonly referred to as stomach cancer, can develop in any part of the stomach and may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs; particularly the esophagus, lungs, lymph nodes, and the liver...

. It also serves as the type species
Type species
In biological nomenclature, a type species is both a concept and a practical system which is used in the classification and nomenclature of animals and plants. The value of a "type species" lies in the fact that it makes clear what is meant by a particular genus name. A type species is the species...

 of the genus.

Helicobacter spp. are able to thrive in the very acidic mammalian stomach
The stomach is a muscular, hollow, dilated part of the alimentary canal which functions as an important organ of the digestive tract in some animals, including vertebrates, echinoderms, insects , and molluscs. It is involved in the second phase of digestion, following mastication .The stomach is...

 by producing large quantities of the enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

Urease is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea into carbon dioxide and ammonia. The reaction occurs as follows:In 1926, James Sumner showed that urease is a protein. Urease is found in bacteria, yeast, and several higher plants. The structure of urease was first solved by P.A...

, which locally raises the pH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 from ~2 to a more biocompatible range of 6 to 7. Bacteria belonging to this genus are usually susceptible to antibiotics such as penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

, are microaerophilic (require small amounts of oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

) capnophiles, and are fast-moving with their flagella.

Non-pylori Helicobacter species

Recently, new gastric (Helicobacter suis and Helicobacter baculiformis) and enterohepatic (Helicobacter equorum) species have been reported. Helicobacter pylori is of primary importance for medicine; however, non-pylori Helicobacter species (NPHS), which naturally inhabit mammals (except humans) and birds, have been detected in human clinical specimens. NPHS encompass two (gastric and enterohepatic) groups, showing different organ specificity. Importantly, some species such as Helicobacter hepaticus, Helicobacter mustelae and, probably, Helicobacter bilis exhibit carcinogenic potential in animals. NPHS harbour many virulence
Virulence is by MeSH definition the degree of pathogenicity within a group or species of parasites as indicated by case fatality rates and/or the ability of the organism to invade the tissues of the host. The pathogenicity of an organism - its ability to cause disease - is determined by its...

 genes and may cause diseases not only in animals but also in humans. Gastric NPHS such as H. suis (most often), Helicobacter felis, Helicobacter bizzozeronii and Helicobacter salomonis have been associated with chronic gastritis and peptic ulcers in humans and, importantly, with higher risk for MALT lymphoma compared to H. pylori. Enterohepatic species e.g., H. hepaticus, H. bilis and Helicobacter ganmani have been detected by PCR in but still not isolated from specimens of patients with hepatobiliary diseases. Moreover, NPHS may be associated with Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. The significance of avian helicobacters (Helicobacter pullorum, Helicobacter anseris and Helicobacter brantae) also has been evaluated extensively. NPHS such as Helicobacter cinaedi and Helicobacter canis can cause severe infections, mostly in immunocompromised patients with animal exposure. Briefly, the role of NPHS in veterinary and human medicine is increasingly recognised. However, despite the growing interest in the possible association between NPHS and the chronic hepatobiliary or intestinal diseases in humans, more studies are still required to prove the suggested association. Several other topics such as isolation of still uncultured species, antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance is a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic. While a spontaneous or induced genetic mutation in bacteria may confer resistance to antimicrobial drugs, genes that confer resistance can be transferred between bacteria in a...

and treatment regimens for NPHS infections and, last but not least, NPHS pathogenesis and possible carcinogenesis in humans should be additionally evaluated.

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