Autoimmune gastritis is a chronic progressive inflammatory condition that results in the replacement of the parietal cell mass by atrophic and metaplastic mucosa. A complex interaction of autoantibodies against the parietal cell proton pump and sensitized T cells progressively destroy the parietal cells, inducing hypochlorhydria and then achlorhydria, while autoantibodies against the intrinsic factor impair the absorption of vitamin B 12. The resulting cobalamin deficiency manifests with megaloblastic anaemia and neurological and systemic signs and symptoms collectively known as pernicious anaemia. Previously believed to be predominantly a disease of elderly women of Northern European ancestry, autoimmune gastritis has now been recognized in all populations and ethnic groups, but because of the complexity of the diagnosis no reliable prevalence data are available. For similar reasons, as well as the frequent and often unknown overlap with Helicobacter pylori infection, the risk of gastric cancer has not been adequately assessed in these patients. This Review summarizes the epidemiology, pathogenesis and pathological aspects of autoimmune metaplastic atrophic gastritis. We also provide practical advice for the diagnosis and management of patients with this disease.
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