What is Helicobacter Pylori?
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) is a bacteria that infects your stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). H. pylori bacteria can increase your risk of developing:
- Gastritis (an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining).
- Peptic ulcer disease (which is either duodenal or gastric/stomach ulcers).
- Stomach (gastric) cancer.
H. pylori is a major cause of peptic ulcer. The bacteria decreases the stomach’s protective mucus. This makes it easier for the stomach to be damaged from digestive acids.
H. pylori infections are very common. About 50% of the world’s population is infected. However, most people never have symptoms.
H. pylori bacteria are spread through contact with feces from an infected person. Many people get this infection during childhood. The bacteria often live in the stomach lining without causing any symptoms or problems. But for some people, these bacteria cause ulcers and other stomach irritations.
While the bacteria live in your stomach lining, H. pylori make urea, a natural compound in the body. As the bacteria make urea, they create ammonia and bicarbonate. Traces of these can be found in your breath. This is proof that H. pylori is in your body.
What is the Helicobacter Pylori Urea Breath Test?
This is a test that checks your breath for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a common infection. The H. pylori breath test involves breathing into a balloon-like bag. It's a safe and easy way to detect H. pylori bacteria, diagnosis H. pylori infection, and determine if treatment cured the infection. H. pylori infection is a major cause of peptic ulcer disease. Its presence also increases your risk of gastritis and stomach cancer.
H. pylori 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.
You may need this test if you have been treated for H. pylori and your healthcare provider wants to know if the treatment worked. This test is the easiest way to find out if H. pylori are living in your stomach.
If this test is done too soon after treatment, you could get a false-positive result. This means that the test could show that H. pylori are still present even though they are not. To get the best results, you should be retested at least 4 weeks after treatment for H. pylori.
Other factors that may affect results include:
Recent use of antibiotics
Recent use of bismuth
Recent use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
The test is a good choice for children, but is less accurate in children younger than 6 years.
Berger A. Helicobacter pylori breath tests. BMJ. 2002 May 25;324(7348):1263. doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7348.1263. PMID: 12028983; PMCID: PMC1123218.
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