A stool test for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is used to diagnose an infection of the stomach from the bacterium. It is an easy, non-invasive, economical, extremely accurate, and reliable test recommended by Gastroenterologists and Gastroenterological Associations around the world, to diagnose, monitor, and test the eradication of Helicobacter pylori.
What is Helicobacter pylori infection and who does it affect?
Helicobacter pylori is a microbe that can infect the lining of the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the intestine). More than half of the world's population has the microorganism in their body. The details of how and when someone gets infected remain largely unknown. When someone becomes infected, if left untreated, the microbe remains within them for the rest of their life.
How is Helicobacter pylori infection diagnosed?
- With the breath test (urea test). According to this, the patient drinks a special solution, and then a breath sample is analyzed. Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), or H2-receptor antagonists should not be taken for at least 2-4 weeks before the test. Also, fasting must have preceded and the reason is that drugs and food can affect the test result. Also in cases of achlorhydria or in the presence of other microorganisms that produce urea, this test can give a false-positive result.
- Blood tests can detect antibodies to Helicobacter pylori. This test is sometimes used to confirm the infection. However, it can take up to a year for antibodies to become negative after successful clearance of the microbe. This test cannot be used to confirm the success of treatment.
- Endoscopy and tissue biopsy can also be used to check the mucosa for the presence of Helicobacter pylori.
- Helicobacter pylori antigen in stool. It is an alternative test that can replace all of the above. It is the most accurate, non-invasive examination for the diagnosis and confirmation of Helicobacter pylori eradication. Testing for the presence of Helicobacter pylori antigen in the stool is extremely specific and sensitive for the diagnosis, monitoring of treatment, and confirmation of bacterial eradication. Testing for Helicobacter pylori in this way has no risk of false-positive results, unlike the urea test. As is the case with urea, antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), or H2-receptor antagonists, should not be taken prior to the test.
What problems does Helicobacter pylori cause?
- It usually does not cause problems. Most people with Helicobacter pylori have no symptoms and most do not know they are infected.
- Stomach and duodenum ulcers. Helicobacter pylori is the most common cause of duodenal and stomach ulcers. About 3 in 20 people with Helicobacter pylori develop ulcers.
- Non-ulcer dyspepsia or functional dyspepsia. It is a condition where there are recurrent exacerbations of dyspepsia which are not caused by an ulcer or inflammation. The cause of most cases is not known. Some cases may be due to Helicobacter pylori.
- Stomach cancer. Prolonged Helicobacter pylori infection is thought to increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. However, it should be noted that the vast majority of people with Helicobacter pylori do not get cancer.
- Gastric mucosal lymphoma (MALToma). An extremely rare and unusual form of stomach cancer. Helicobacter pylori infection is thought to play a role.
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.