What is Helicobacter pylori?
Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) is a cork-screw shaped bacterium that lives in the mucus coating the lining of the stomach and duodenum. It can irritate the lining of the stomach causing inflammation and is a major causative factor in stomach and duodenal ulcers, gastric cancer and other forms of gastritis. H.pylori infections are believed to be caused by swallowing bacteria in food or liquids, or from unclean utensils. It can also pass from one person to the next and, therefore, the partner of the person infected by H.pylori should consider being tested.
What are the symptoms?
Some H.pylori infections are 'silent' and produce no symptoms, but when the bacteria do cause symptoms they are usually of gastritis or stomach ulcers. Typical symptoms of gastritis include vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain. Stomach ulcers are very similar to mouth ulcers where raw, sensitive patches develop on the lining of the stomach and cause a gnawing or burning pain. The pain can last for minutes or hours and will often feel worse on an empty stomach. Many people assume they have heartburn, as antacid medicine will often relieve the symptoms.
How do you test for H.pylori?
While an endoscopy is the traditional method of detecting the presence of H.pylori, the distribution of the organism is patchy within the gut lining and the bacteria can be missed. Infection by H.pylori generally elicits a strong immune response and it is now possible to reliably detect H.pylori antibodies in the blood using ELISA technology. This method is an inexpensive and non-invasive alternative to endoscopy.
How do the tests work?
Helicobacter pylori Screen is an ELISA that detects IgG antibodies to H.pylori in the patient™s blood. The test is sensitive enough to detect an infection and it is also a useful tool to monitor treatment since H.pylori antibody levels decrease with successful eradication therapy.
How do you treat a H.pylori infection?
You should discuss your results and symptoms with your healthcare professional. If your results indicate an infection then your GP will probably prescribe eradication therapy which usually includes taking a course of antibiotics for 7 to 28 days. Eradication of a H.pylori infection usually results in a permanent cure for most stomach or duodenal ulcers.
Sample requirements & test turnaround
A pin-prick blood sample is required. Results are available within 10 working days