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J Clin Microbiol. 1997 June; 35(6): 1300–1303.
PMCID: PMC229738

Vector potential of houseflies (Musca domestica) for Helicobacter pylori.


The mode of transmission of Helicobacter pylori is unknown. Since viable bacteria have been shown to be excreted in feces from infected individuals and houseflies habitually develop and feed on excrement, we hypothesized that flies ingest and harbor H. pylori and, in turn, contaminate the human environment. This study examined the possible vector potential of houseflies (Musca domestica) for H. pylori. Caged houseflies were exposed to freshly grown H. pylori on agar plates. After a 6-h feeding period, the plates were removed and were replaced with sterile petri dishes containing a droplet of sterile brucella broth. At regular intervals, small numbers of houseflies were removed for microbiological and histological analysis, and the petri dishes were replaced with fresh sterile plates with fresh drops of brucella broth. The flies' bodies, the flies' dissected alimentary tracts, and excreta on the petri dishes were cultured for H. pylori, whose identity was confirmed by the urease, catalase, and oxidase reactions and Gram staining. In contrast to control flies, viable H. pylori could be isolated from external surfaces for up to 12 h and from gut and excreta for as long as 30 h after the initial feeding period. After 30 h other gram-negative bacteria overgrew the cultures of samples from all locations tested, rendering the selective culture of H. pylori colonies impossible. Histological analysis revealed Helicobacter-like organisms in the gut lumen and attached to intestinal epithelial cells. We conclude that houseflies can harbor viable H. pylori on their bodies and in their intestinal tracts. They are also able to disseminate viable H. pylori in excreta, and they may therefore present a significant reservoir and be a vector in the transmission of H. pylori.

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