Bad well water may cause stomach ulcers

June 3, 1999
Web posted at: 12:50 p.m. EDT (1650 GMT)

CHICAGO (Reuters) -- Scientists reported Wednesday they have found the first direct link between drinking water and stomach ulcers.

The finding came from tests done on wells and other water sources in Pennsylvania where the bacteria Helicobacter pylori was found. The bacteria is known to cause certain gastric ulcers.

The report from Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg said interviews with residents who drank the water found a statistically significant correlation between presence of the bacteria and cases of stomach ulcers.

Katherine Baker, who led the research, said drinking water is generally considered safe when coliform bacteria is not present. But the ulcer-causing bacteria was found in coliform-free water samples, she said.

"What this really means is that our current methods for testing drinking water may be saying that water is fine while H. pylori may actually be present," she said.

The research, released at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, was described by the authors as the first to "demonstrate a direct link between contaminated drinking water and stomach ulcers."

Baker said the study involved private, untreated water supplies and not municipal water sources, which are less likely to contain the organism.