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There are several methods used to diagnose H. pylori. These include:
Blood Antibody Tests
A small sample of blood is drawn and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Blood tests, however, detect past infections in addition to currently active ones. This means a positive result from a blood test may not necessarily indicate that you are currently infected; only that you may have been infected in the past. A false positive result can sometimes lead to unnecessary treatment.
A tube equipped with a miniature camera is inserted into through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. Tissue samples, taken from a few places on the lining of your stomach, are extracted for analysis. Endoscopy is rarely done to test for H. pylori alone, but it is used to identify or rule out other illnesses, such as stomach inflammation and cancer. The procedure is invasive, requires a local anesthetic, and often requires patient downtime of up to a full day.
Urea Breath Test (UBT)
This non-invasive method for diagnosing H. pylori infection, as well as for follow-up testing after treatment is recommended by the American College of Gastroenterology, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Gastroenterological Association. The patient drinks a solution containing 13C or 14C-marked agent. If H. pylori is present, 13C02- or 14C02 will be released into the bloodstream and carried to the lungs, where it can be detected in the patient’s breath. Special equipment analyzes the exhaled sample to determine if H. pylori infection is present.
Stool Antigen Test
This laboratory test can detect foreign proteins (antigens) in a stool sample, including those that are associated with Helicobacter pylori infection. Stool samples are unpleasant and inconvenient. In addition, results are not immediately known, and require a subsequent visit to the physician.