The effect of intra-gastric acidity and flora on the concentration of N-nitroso compounds in the stomach
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BACKGROUND: Correa's hypothesis proposes that gastric carcinogenesis is due to atrophic gastritis and hypochlorhydria which permit gastric bacterial colonization, the reduction of dietary nitrates to nitrites and the formation of potentially carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that omeprazole-induced hypochlorhydria is associated with increased intra-gastric concentrations of nitrate-reducing bacteria (NRB), nitrites and NOCs. DESIGN: Single-blind study in healthy volunteers. PARTICIPANTS: Fourteen healthy subjects (seven female, mean age 24 years), free of Helicobacter pylori infection, received a one-week course of placebo followed by a two-week course of omeprazole, 20 mg daily. METHODS: Fasted gastric samples, aspirated using a sterile double-lumen nasogastric tube at the end of the 1 st week (placebo) and the 2nd and 3rd weeks (omeprazole), were cultured aerobically and anaerobically; gastric pH and intra-gastric concentrations of nitrates, nitrites and NOCs were also determined. RESULTS: After weeks 1, 2 and 3, the intra-gastric concentrations of nitrate-reducing bacteria exceeded 10(5) colony-forming units (c.f.u.)/ml in 3, 7 and 9 subjects, respectively (P > 0.05). A gastric pH greater than 4.0 was associated with increased NRB (P < 0.05); however, neither increased gastric pH nor increased NRB, alone or in combination, was associated with increased intra-gastric concentrations of nitrites or NOCs (P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: A two-week increase in gastric pH in healthy, H. pylori-negative subjects was associated with increased intra-gastric concentrations of nitrate-reducing bacteria but not of nitrites or N-nitroso compounds. These data suggest that reduced gastric acid secretion is not a necessary precursor to the formation of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds and that other mechanisms should be invoked to explain gastric carcinogenesis.
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