BACKGROUND: Helicobacter pylori infection that is usually acquired in childhood and lasts for lifetime is mostly asymptomatic but associated with severe gastrointestinal disease including cancer. During chronic infection, the gastric mucosa is histologically changing. This forces H. pylori to permanent adaptation in its gastric habitat by expression of different proteins which might be reflected in distinctive antibody patterns. METHODS: To characterize dynamics of the immune response to H. pylori we analysed 1797 sera of a cross-sectional study representative for the German population (age range 1-82 years) with multiplex serology, a fluorescent bead-based antibody binding assay that allows simultaneous and quantitative detection of antibodies. Fifteen recombinant, affinity-purified H. pylori proteins (UreA, GroEL, Catalase, NapA, CagA, CagM, Cagdelta, HP0231, VacA, HpaA, Cad, HyuA, Omp, HcpC and HP0305) were used as antigens. RESULTS: H. pylori seroprevalence (positivity for at least three antigens) was 48% and increased with age from 12% in children 〈15 years to 69% in females and 90% in males 〉65 years. Prevalences were highest (〉83%) for Omp, VacA and GroEL. For 11 proteins, seroprevalence was higher in males than females (P 〈 0.05) from age 55 onwards. For all antigens, the median prevalence increase per age decade was stronger in males (8.4%, range 3.8-12.9%) than females (6.1%, range 3.4-10.8%). However, among seropositives the median number of antigens recognized increased from children 〈15 years to individuals 〉65 years stronger in females (P = 0.02). Antibody reactivities to GroEL, HyuA, CagM, Catalase, NapA and UreA also increased stronger in females (average 1.7-fold/decade, SD 0.5) than in males (1.5-fold/decade, SD 0.4). CONCLUSION: H. pylori antibody response accumulates qualitatively and quantitatively with age. This may reflect a lifelong stimulation of the immune response by chronically active infection.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published