THOSE who have had bouts with gastric ulcer most likely have heard of the bacterium (singular form of bacteria) known scientifically as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

H. pylori has a long story to tell. It first belonged to a group of corkscrew-looking bacteria called Campylobacter, created in 1963 as a class. But with the advent of electron microscopy, scientists observed that this bacterium possesses a helical body instead. Thus in 1989 a new class of bacteria named Helicobacter (“bacteria with helical body”) was created.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

H. pylori is a known culprit of long-standing that causes slight inflammation of the stomach lining, which may eventually lead to ulcers in the stomach or the duodenum. It has been strongly linked to stomach cancer. And what makes the situation alarming is this: over 80 percent of infections go on without symptoms (physical indications).

Many know that more than 50 percent of the world’s population harbor H. pylori in the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract, believed to be confined to the various areas of the stomach and the duodenum (part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach). But recent studies, from 2006 through 2010, proved otherwise.

The latest research, reported in the research publication (May 2010 issue) of the Memorial Institute of Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil, found H. pylori “present in the oral cavity with variable distribution between saliva and dental plaques.”

LT Rasmussen, who led the seven-member team coming from the Universedade do Sagrado Coracao in Bauru, Brazil, reported that this finding suggests “the existence of a reservoir” for the bacterium and “a potential association with gastric re-infection.”

The study involved biopsies of the stomach lining, saliva and dental plaque of Brazilian patients with dyspepsia.

Dyspepsia is what we commonly knoew as “indigestion” or “stomach upset,” simply because it involves impairment of digestion. The patient feels a recurring pain in the upper portion of the abdomen, or a feeling of always being full.

Pain observed worsens with exertion, and is usually associated with nausea, perspiration, bloating, belching, and heartburn.

With this information coming in, we may be wondering if the observation of Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, the famous author of the Spanish classic Don Quixote--“A closed mouth catches no flies”—still makes sense.

Will avoiding flies be preferable to preventing H. pylori from growing in millions inside the mouth, this bacterium being a lover of minute amounts of air? Well, that is something the readers may find interesting to discuss or argue among themselves.