Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers

Stomach ulcers are caused by the gastric mucosa being infected with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori infects various areas of the stomach and duodenum causing inflammation and ulcers in the stomach.

There are two tests used to assay for the presence of H. pylori infection:

  1. Endoscopy where a tube with a camera is inserted down the esophagus into the duodenum to view the mucosal lining and obtain a tissue sample for assay.

2. The Ulcer Breath Test:

  • Carbon dioxide is exhale when we breath out
  • A breath sample is taken
  • Pranactin is then taken orally
  • A second breath sample is obtained once the Pranactin has been metabolised in the GI tract
  • The breath test is based on H. pylori’s ability to break down urea, the active ingredient in Pranactin.
  • H. pylori breaks down urea in a process that produces carbon dioxide.
  • The urea in Pranactin, however, is composed of a form of carbon called carbon 13, which is not found in high levels in breath.
  • When H. pylori breaks down the urea, carbon dioxide containing the carbon 13 is formed.
  • This carbon dioxide, containing carbon 13, enters the blood and travels to the lungs, where it is exhaled.
  • The test then compares first breath sample to the second sample and determines if a higher proportion of carbon dioxide (containing carbon 13) is present.
  • a higher level of carbon 13 in the second sample results in a positive H. pylori ulcer test.
  • Antibacterial medications to treat H. pylori infection can then be given

Martin, Glenn and Porth, Carol, Mattson. 2009. Pathophysiology Concepts of Altered Health States. 8th ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. Philadelphia


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