The 13C-urea breath test (UBT) is a noninvasive test for diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection of gastric mucosa. The aim of this prospective study was to assess the accuracy of a simple UBT in clinical routine use.
Methods: The study population comprised of 100 patients (49 f, 51 m) requiring diagnostic upper GI endoscopy. One biopsy specimen was taken from the gastric antrum, body and fundus, respectively, for standard histological examination and one additional specimen from each location was transformed into transport medium for cultivation of H. pylori. After vaccination of the culture plates the biopsies were tested for urease activity (UAT). After recovery from endoscopy the patients had to pass an one liter endexspiratory breath sample before and 15 min after drinking 200 ml orange juice, pH 3.6, containing 75 mg of 13C-urea. 13CO2 was measured in the breath samples using isotope-selective nondispersive infrared spectrometry.
Results: Defining gold standard groups with all biopsy tests (from antrum and corpus) positive or negative the 13CO2 delta over baseline (DOB) cut-off level of UBT was set at 6.5/1000 in order to best discriminate positive from negative patients (ROC analysis). UBT was positive in 37% of all subjects. Taken UAT and histological examination together (positive when both tests were positive) UBT displayed a sensitivity of 92%, a specificity of 94%, a positive predictive value of 89%, and a negative predictive value of 94%. When including the results of culture sensitivity and negative predictive value reached almost 100%. The mean of the 13CO2-DOB values from H. pylori-positive duodenal or gastric ulcer patients did not differ from controls (H. pylori-positive patients without lesions). The 13CO2-DOB values of the ulcer group were correlated significantly with the active inflammatory component of gastritis in antrum, corpus, and fundus.
Conclusion: UBT with this setup detects H. pylori infection in clinical routine use with high accuracy. The increase of exhaled 13CO2 does not predict ulcer disease but reflects the degree of active inflammation of gastric mucosa.
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