Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that may infect the stomach due to its favourable conditions for the bacteria. It is the main cause of ulcers in both the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) as well a posing as a risk factor for gastric cancer.
There are several ways to test for H.pylori. These include:
-Urea breathe test
-Urea test from biopsy obtained from Gastroscopy
-Histology examination which requires special straining
-Culture and serology examination which is not currently popular
The urea breath test remains as one of the most rapid diagnostic tests used to identify infections caused by H.pylori . The bacteria produces an enzyme called urease, which breaks urea down into ammonia and carbon dioxide. During the test, a tablet containing urea is swallowed and the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide is measured. This indicates the presence of H. pylori in the stomach.
The H. pylori bacteria produces an enzyme called urease, which breaks urea down into ammonia and carbon dioxide. During the urea breathe test, a tablet containing urea is swallowed and the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide is measured. The difference between the pre- and post urea measurements is used to determine infection. This indicates the presence of H. pylori in the stomach.
The Urea breath test may be recommended by your doctor for you under the following circumstances:
-You have symptoms such as burning pain in the upper portion of the abdomen, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, burping and loss of appetite
-Approximately 4 weeks after having completed treatment for the pylori infection, your doctor may order the test to check whether the bacteria has been successfully eradicated.
-If an immediate family and/or very close associate has been found to have pylori infection your doctor may recommend that you be tested.
The Urea breathe test is a rapid test with high sensitivity and specificity.
The test is non-invasive and safe
Patients will need to stop taking any proton-inhibitors such as omeprazole 2 weeks before taking the test
Patients will need to fast approximately 6 hours before the test
You will be asked to swallow urea labelled with an uncommon isotope, either radioactive carbon-14 or non-radioactive carbon-13. After 10–30 minutes, the detection of isotope-labelled carbon dioxide in exhaled breath will indicate that the urea was split; this indicates that urease (the enzyme that H. pylori uses to metabolize urea) is present in the stomach, and hence confirms that H. pylori bacteria are present.
You will be asked to stop taking any proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole 2 weeks before the test. Your doctor will discuss the kinds of medications that you are allowed to take before you take your urea breath test. You will also be required to fast for approximately 6 hours before taking the test.
After completing the test, your breath samples are sent to a lab where they are tested. You may then resume your normal daily activities and diett unless you are scheduled for other tests that require dietary restrictions. The analyzer can give you your results within 5 minutes which you will discuss with your doctor.
The Urea breathe test procedure is considered safe but you may experience side effects from the medication used to detect the bacteria including taste disturbance. Uncommonly, side effects such as stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and a change in the sense of smell have been reported after taking the 13C-urea tablet. These side effects are very mild and transient, usually requiring no treatment.
What happens after I get a positive result from the urea breath test?
Your doctor will then put on some antibiotics to help get rid of the bacteria from you digestive system. Approximately one month after your antibiotic treatment, your doctor might order a repeat test to see if your infection has been cured.
What can I do to prevent (future) infections of H.pylori?
There are no formal recommendations from the CDC to prevent it. In general, you should practice good hygiene by frequently washing your hands and properly preparing your food. If you’re diagnosed with H. pylori, complete your full course of antibiotic treatment to reduce your risk of recurrence.
What happens if my H.pylori infection goes untreated?
If untreated, H. pylori infections may cause severe complications, including increased chances of getting cancer.
1. Ulcers.- H. pylori can damage the protective lining of your stomach and small intestine. This can allow stomach acid to create an open sore (ulcer). About 10% of people with H. pylori will develop an ulcer.
2. Inflammation of the stomach lining. H. pylori infection can irritate your stomach, causing inflammation (gastritis).
3. Stomach cancer. H. Pylori infection is a strong risk factor for certain types of stomach cancer.