Helicobacter pylori infection has been proved to be of great relevance to public health in unindustrialized countries, especially in low socioeconomic groups. Poor hygiene, deficient sanitation, and crowded conditions have been reported as risk factors for this infection. In this work, we investigated whether social and demographic characteristics were associated with anti-H. pylori IgG antibodies in 1104 children aged 4–11 years old from Salvador, a large city located in northeastern Brazil.
Standardized questionnaires were used to obtain social, demographic, and environmental data for the studied population in two periods of time (from 1997 to 2003 and in 2005). Anti-H. pylori IgG antibodies were assessed by indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 2005.
Anti-H. pylori IgG antibody was present in 28.7% of the children. Among the studied variables, the following were positively associated with the presence of anti-H. pylori antibodies in multivariable analyses: age above 8 years old (OR = 1.72, 95% CI = 1.23–2.40), a larger sibling number (OR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.26–2.18), nursery attendance (OR = 1.49, 95% CI = 1.04–2.12), location of the house at an unpaved street (OR = 2.03, 95% CI = 1.44–2.87) and absence of a flush toilet (OR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.00–1.74).
Our data show that H. pylori infection in children from a major Brazilian city is associated with variables indicative of a crowded environment and deficient sanitation/habitation conditions, leading to the conclusion that improvements in hygiene and social conditions may protect children against this infection.