The role for Helicobacter pylori in the pathogenesis of disease provides the conundrum that only a subset of subjects infected with H. pylori will ever develop peptic ulcer or gastric cancer. Thus, variation in strain as well as environmental or host factors converge in the gastroduodenal milieu and control the final outcome of infection. The host immune and inflammatory response is emerging as an important element in the pathogenesis of these gastric diseases. The ideal host response provides protection to clear an infection without causing excessive amounts of inflammation that could compromise the integrity and function of host cells. This review will cover four main questions: (1) What are the mucosal immune/inflammatory responses that confer protection without damaging the host? (2) How do the gastric immune responses during infection with H. pylori differ from this ideal scenario? (3) Do these responses contribute to autoimmune-mediated damage to gastric tissue? (4) Can immunomodulation through vaccination enhance protective, nondestructive responses that prevent or treat infection or, at least, attenuate inflammation?.
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