Background: The role of Helicobacter pylori infection in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients during treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) is still unclear. Methods: By means of endoscopy and biopsy, gastroduodenal lesions and H. pylori status were repeatedly examined in 88 RA patients at intervals ranging from 26 to 49 months. Histology and culture were applied to determine H. pylori status. Serial changes in gastroduodenal lesions and histologic score for mucosal atrophy were compared among groups classified by initial and second H. pylori status. Results: There were 28 patients with continuously positive H. pylori infection (CP group), 33 patients with continuously negative H. pylori infection (CN group), 7 patients in whom H. pylori status became negative (PN group), and 20 patients in whom H. pylori status could not be determined (UD group). Age, duration and species of NSAID, disease activity of RA, gastroprotective drugs applied and the prevalence of gastroduodenal mucosal lesions were not different among the groups at either the initial or the second examination. In the PN group, the score for mucosal atrophy at the second examination was significantly lower than at the initial examination, whereas no difference was found for the CP, CN and UD groups. Overall, histologic score for mucosal atrophy was higher in H. pylori-positive patients than in H. pylori-negative patients at both initial and second examination. Conclusions: In RA patients using NSAIDs, H. pylori infection may not affect the course of gastroduodenal lesions and activity of RA, but the infection contributes to mucosal atrophy.
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