The gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori efficiently evades innate immune detection and persistently colonizes its human host. Understanding the genetic determinants that H. pylori uses to establish and maintain persistence, along with their cellular targets, is key to our understanding of the pathogenesis of this extraordinarily successful bacterial colonizer of the human stomach. This review highlights recent advances in elucidating innate immune recognition of H. pylori, its interactions with myeloid cells and the consequences that this very local infection has for immune responses at extragastric sites in models of allergy, autoimmunity and parasitic infection. The human-specific, gram-negative gastric colonizer and carcinogen H. pylori represents the prototype of a persistent bacterial pathogen. It is transmitted during early childhood, typically from mother to infant, and is believed to persist in its human host from the cradle to the grave. The tremendous success of H. pylori in infecting and colonizing half of the world’s population, and in continuously accompanying humans since they migrated out of Africa over 60000 years ago, can largely be attributed to its ability to manipulate the host immune system to its own advantage, and to thereby ensure its own persistence and chronicity. In his final years as an active PI, Stanley Falkow increasingly recognized the need to understand bacterial persistence strategies as a prerequisite of understanding the pathogenesis of chronic bacterial infections, and, inspired in large part by Denise Monack’s work on Salmonella persistence, many of our discussions at the time revolved around this topic. Multiple labs have since made important contributions to our understanding of innate immune detection of H. pylori, the types and polarization of adaptive immune responses that ensue, the ability of H. pylori to skew such immune responses to its advantage, and its ability to manipulate the host immune system with far-reaching, even systemic consequences. This review attempts to cover some of these topics, with a particular focus on the most recent contributions by researchers in the field.
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