AIMS--To evaluate the changes in mucus gel layer thickness and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) content caused by Helicobacter pylori infection in the antral mucosa of children: to assess whether decreased mucus gel thickness is related to PGE2 production. METHODS--Antral biopsy specimens were taken at endoscopy from 153 children. H pylori gastritis was evident in 45 and normal mucosa in 59. The other 49 children were studied one month after antibiotic treatment that eradicated the infection in 37 of them had been stopped. One antral specimen was immersed in ice-cold saline, put under an inverse microscope with an eyepiece graticule. Mucus gel thickness was measured and then the processed for histological examination; another specimen was weighed and processed for in vitro prostanoid generation. RESULTS--Mucus gel layer thickness was significantly decreased in children with H pylori gastritis (90 (SD) 29) microns v 120 (58) microns in controls, p < 0.01) but returned to control values after H pylori had been eradicated. PGE2 generation was significantly increased in children with H pylori gastritis (1022 (811) ng/g v 641 (473) ng/g in controls, p < 0.01). One month after treatment PGE2 generation significantly decreased in children without infection (880 (534), p < 0.01), but was still high where infection persisted. A significant inverse correlation was found between PGE2 generation and mucus gel layer thickness (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS--These data suggest that H pylori damages the mucus gel layer, and that the gastric mucosa increases generation of PGE2 in response to back diffusion of acid and pepsin.
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