Objective: Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is a common bacterial infection that is associated with significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. This bacterium causes a chronic infection that is causally related to illnesses ranging from gastritis, peptic ulcer disease to gastric cancer. It is generally considered that it is acquired in childhood but the prevalence varies considerably between countries and communities. There are few data on the prevalence of H pylori in the Caribbean and none on the prevalence of H pylori in children in the Bahamas. The aim of this pilot study was to determine the prevalence of H pylori infection in a cohort of school children in the Bahamas.
Methods: One hundred and sixty-one children attending a public primary school in the Bahamas were invited to participate in this study. Consent was obtained for 107 children and each participant completed a brief questionnaire. Valid data were available for 96 of these children. Active H pylori infection was determined using the 13C urea breath test (UBT).
Results: Fifty-two children tested positive for H pylori, yielding a prevalence of 54.2%. The median age in the study was nine years with 46.9% male and 53.1% female. No significant relationship was found between gender, breastfeeding, pets and H pylori status.
Conclusion: The prevalence reported in this study is the highest reported in asymptomatic children in the Caribbean. Further studies are required to determine risk factors for acquisition of H pylori infection in this population.