Why Nairobians Should by Worried About H.pylori Bacteria Now More Than Ever

Nairobi residents scrambling for water. FILE PHOTO | NMG

One Nairobian is unhappy after his water tested positive for h.pylori bacteria.

On Twitter, he said that his bathroom water had tested positive for the bacteria and probably trying to understand the menace, he asked how many people were suffering from the disease.

H.pylori is a type of bacteria that interferes with the process of controlling how much acid is in the stomach. The spread of Helicobacter Pylori (H.pylori) has been flagged as a public health concern in Nairobi due to poor urban sanitation and access to clean water.

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It’s a concern because it’s contagious, is present in the city’s water systems and is hard to treat. If left untreated, it can cause inflammation and even lead to cancer.

Many city’s residents may not be in the know, but they live in highly congested informal and middle-class settlements along the Nairobi River banks. The river is very polluted by garbage, human waste, industrial waste (including agrochemicals, petrochemicals and metals) and overflowing sewers.

How do you know you have it?

Patients infected with H.pylori don’t have any obvious symptoms. Signs may include;

  • Ache or burning pain in the abdomen – particularly when your stomach’s empty
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent belching
  • Bloating
  • Unintentional weight loss


Those infected can be treated with antibiotics. Whereas many patients used to self-medicate with over-the-counter antacids for heartburn and reflux, many now get tested. Those testing positive for the bacterium have a cocktail of antibiotics prescribed.

Treatment is quite intensive and usually involves more than one antibiotic and antacids over a period of up to 10 days. Because it’s contagious, treating it properly is key to preventing the bacteria’s spread.

Including the diagnostic tests, consultation fees and medicines, the cost of managing one case using gold standard guidelines is upwards of Sh20,000.

Below were a few reactions from Nairobians on the disease.

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