What is Helicobacter pylori and what should you know about bacteria causing gastric ulcers?

Helicobacter pylori is one of the most common causes of chronic infection in a world that damages the stomach and duodenum.

In the interview, you will be informed about the following: 

Helicobacter pylori

Infection with this bacteria mostly occurs in children’s age and the exact ways of transmission are still unknown to scientists. It’s quite a cruel bacteria and might cause following in the body: gastritis, duodenitis (inflammation of the mucosal membrane of stomach and duodenum), ulcer diseases and even stomach cancer. 

Also, certain data suggest that bacteria might be related to the development of such pathologies as functional dyspepsia, unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenia.

A urea breath test is considered a gold standard in diagnosing Helicobacter pylori.

Gastroenterologist of the clinic “New Life” of National Center of Surgery, Magda Asatiani discusses this diagnostic method.

What is the Helicobacter pylori breath test?

A breath test is an easy, safe and one of the accurate methods for identifying bacteria. The principle of the breath test is based on the determination of enzyme urease activity that is produced by Helicobacter pylori before and after urea intake. Urease dismantles urea by producing ammonia and carbon dioxide.

Color change in indicator tube indicates ammonia in the exhaled air and enables the assessment of bacterial urease activity and determination of infection.

After the procedure, the patient returns to daily activities.

Confirmation of the presence of bacteria in the body is essential for defining treatment tactics for the above-mentioned diseases. All patients who were diagnosed with helicobacter pylori infection have to receive eradication therapy (a combination of different medications including antibiotics).

Whom is this test recommended for?  

It’s crucial to properly identify the target group of the mentioned test.

Indications for using a Helicobacter pylori diagnostic test are:

  • Gastric or duodenal ulcer (if there’s no current or past confirmation of successful treatment of bacteria);
  • Gastric MALT-lymphoma;
  • Atrophic gastritis;
  • Family history of stomach cancer;
  • History of endoscopic stomach resection;
  • Untreated dyspepsia (Fullness in the stomach after eating, early satiety, pain or burning in the upper part of the stomach);
  • Inflammatory skin diseases (acne, rosacea, chronic idiopathic urticaria).

It’s strictly recommended in the following conditions:

  • Non-ulcer dyspepsia (if there’s no current or past confirmation of successful treatment of bacteria);
  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • Family history of gastric/duodenal ulcer;
  • If a family member is affected by Helicobacter pylori;
  • Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia;
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura;

How should a patient prepare for the test?

The test is done on an empty stomach. A patient mustn’t eat food for min. 12 hours before the examination. The last meal should be light (it’s recommended to exclude meat, fish or mushroom).

Before the examination, the patient is strictly prohibited to:

  1. Take antibiotics for 4 weeks before the examination;
  2. Take antacid, anti-inflammatory drugs, antisecretory drugs, bismuth medication, and analgesics for 14 days before the examination;
  3. Consume alcohol for 3 days before the examination;
  4. Eat legume (wild bean, peas, soybean, fava bean) for 3 days before the examination;
  5. Chew gum on the examination day;
  6. Smoke tobacco for 3 hours before the examination.

On the day of the examination, it is necessary to thoroughly clean the teeth and rinse the mouth.

The procedure lasts 15-20 minutes.

Does the breath test replace gastroscopy? 

Helicobacter pylori breath test and gastroscopy cannot replace each other, particularly, through gastroscopy doctor visually asses mucosal membrane, identifies structural damages and if necessary, conducts biopsy. A breath test will determine whether there are bacteria in the body. Study findings determine the necessity of antibiotic therapy.

Wish you health!