Graham Sustainability Institute

Gastric Cancer and H. pylori Infection in Lima, Peru: The Role of Water Contamination

Project Photo

Project Team

Chuanwu Xi – University of Michigan, School of Public Health
Manuel Valdivieso – University of Michigan Medical School

Project Summary

Studies suggest that drinking water in Lima, Peru may be contaminated by Helicobacter pylori (HP), a stomach bacterium that is the primary cause of gastric cancer worldwide. After lung and liver cancer, gastric cancer is the most lethal cancer in the world, and in Peru it is the most common cancer and cause of cancer mortality among men and women.
This IA aimed to establish strong scientific evidence supporting the direct linkage between drinking water HP contamination and human gastric infection, and to evaluate effective ways to provide clean and safe drinking water to combat these infections in developing countries. Through collaboration among clinicians, researchers, and public health officials from the University of Michigan, the Peruvian Department of Environmental Health (DIGESA), and the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, the project:
  • documented the contamination of municipal drinking water by HP and made progess addressing a critical knowledge gap regarding the infectivity of HP in water.
  • showed that HP is often resistant to standard antibotics, lending support to the importance of primary prevention strategies.
  • examined the effectiveness of low-cost, feasible water treatement strategies.
In addition to building technical capacity within DIGESA, the collaboration raised awareness within DIGESA and the Peruvian Minishry of Health resulting in the implementation of a new monitoring program for waterborne HP in Lima. The project has also leveraged funding for additional work including a formal risk assessment to better understand the risk of infection from drinking water in Peru and the potential benefit of policies to prevent HP exposure.
This project was one two projects conducted concurrently as part of an overall Integrated Assessment addressing major water issues and their impacts on health.
For more details read the final project report (PDF)
This project received a $350,000 Integrated Assessment Grant in 2012.