Sharing a bowl can cause ulcers

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Eating meals with chopsticks from one large bowl, as many Chinese families do, can spread the bacteria that cause 90 per cent of stomach ulcers, according to new research from Australia.

A study of 328 Chinese men and women born outside Australia found that 60 per cent of them had the Helicobacter pylori bacterium - twice the infection rate for white Australians.

Dr Tony Chow, of Monash Medical Center in Melbourne, said the bacteria appearto be spread when people eat from a shared bowl of food, spreading saliva from their mouths to the food and each other with chopsticks. "There is a very strong association there," he said.

H pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium that burrows into the lining of the intestinal tract.

The discovery in 1994 that these bacteria cause stomach ulcers was one of the most amazing medical breakthroughs of this generation. It overturned decades of conventional medical teaching that ulcers were caused by stress, coffee, spicy food or too much stomach acid. Charles Arthur