A study reported in the British Medical Journal by Dr Pius Hildebrand and colleagues from Basel, Switzerland, has found that endoscopists have a higher than average risk of contracting Helicobacter pylori.
Between 1989 and 1991, 92 gastroenterologists and 168 healthy control subjects were investigated by using a questionnaire and 13C urea breath tests.
At the start of the study 56 gastroenterologists were negative and 36 were positive for H. pylori; 104 control subjects were negative and 64 were positive.
In 1996-98, 54 of the 56 gastroenterologists who had originally tested negative for H. pylori were tested again along with 103 control subjects, who had also originally tested negative.
Hp infection rates
7 of the gastroenterologists were found to have acquired the H. pylori infection over the seven-year period compared to only 1 of the control subjects.
This represents a 2.6% annual infection rate for the endoscopists compared to 0.14% for the control subjects.
All seven doctors who contracted the infection always used surgical gloves whilst performing endoscopy.
"Surgical gloves did not protect against Hp infection."
The researchers believe that microscopic droplets of gastric juice, released during endoscopy, may transmit the infection by entering the mouth of the endoscopist.
In light of this, the authors of the study suggest possible further studies - for example, the use of facemasks during endoscopy for protection against H. pylori.