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Isotopes Environ Health Stud. 2004 Mar;40(1):89-98.

Is there an advantage in normalising the results of the Helicobacter pylori [13C]urea breath test for CO2 production rate in children?

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University of Glasgow, Division of Developmental Medicine, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow, G3 8SJ, UK.


The urea breath test (UBT) is a non-invasive diagnostic test to detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, and is the simplest way to confirm eradication after treatment. The test is based on the capacity of H. pylori to secrete the enzyme urease, which hydrolyses urea to ammonia and carbon dioxide. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is an advantage in expressing the results of UBTs in terms of urea hydrolysis rate (UHR), rather than breath 13C enrichment alone. Retrospective analysis of data collected between 1995 and 2002 from 260 patients undergoing UBTs was performed. The cut-offs for positive tests using breath 30-minute enrichment (E30), UHR calculated using VCO2 estimated from height and weight (H/WT) and VCO2 estimated from weight only were determined using two-graph receiver operator characteristic (TG-ROC) analysis. The cut-off points were 3.5/1000 or 38.7 ppm 13C excess, 7.04 micromol/h and 7.08 micromol/h, respectively. There was no advantage in expressing the results as UHR (theta0, Theta-zero, where sensitivity = specificity = 0.97 (UHR H/WT), 0.98 (UHR WT) and 1.00 (E30)) rather than breath 13CO2 enrichment alone. Differences in the extent of H. pylori colonisation and urease activity are more important than variation in VCO2 in determining breath 13CO2 enrichment in the UBT.

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