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Quick, in-office test for Helicobacter pylori

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. A team of researchers from the U.S.C. School of Medicine and the Oregon Health Sciences University reports on their evaluation of a new, in-office test for the presence of Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori bacteria are found in the stomach of billions of people around the world and have been implicated in stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, MALT lymphoma, and dyspepsia (indigestion). The presence of the bacteria can only be finally confirmed through a biopsy of the stomach lining (endoscopy), but many tests are available for use in initial screening; these tests involve antibody tests (requiring a blood sample), urea breath tests, and stool tests for H. pylori antigen. Most of the screening tests require samples to be sent to a laboratory for evaluation and are therefore expensive and time-consuming.

The research team now reports that a new test requiring only a drop of blood and a test strip is quite accurate in gauging the presence of H. pylori. They evaluated the new test (Stat Simple test, Saliva Diagnostic Systems Inc., Vancouver, WA) in 201 patients and compared the results to those obtained by the rapid urease test, examination of biopsy specimens, and laboratory analysis of blood using the ELISA test. They found that the new test detected 82 out of 90 confirmed cases of H. pylori infection correctly (90 per cent sensitivity); the test also correctly predicted that 87 of the 110 patients confirmed as being free of H. pylori did not have the infection (79 per cent specificity). The researchers conclude that the new fingerstick test is easy to use, fast, inexpensive, reasonably accurate, and acceptable to the patient.
Laine, Loren, et al. Fingerstick Helicobacter pylori antibody test: better than laboratory serological testing? American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 94, December 1999, pp. 3464-67

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