What is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)?

Helicobacter pylori (hell-ee-ko-back-ter pie-lore-ee) is a bacteria that can cause infection in the stomach. It is linked to the development of diseases such as dyspepsia, gastritis, and gastric ulcers. It has also been linked to stomach cancer.1

How common is H. pylori infection?

H. pylori is a common chronic infection found in approximately two-thirds of the world's adult population.1 H. pylori infection is linked to residence in a developing country, poor socioeconomic conditions, family overcrowding, and possibly an ethnic or genetic predisposition. In the United States, H. pylori is more prevalent among older adults, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics.2

Is H. pylori infection linked with any other illnesses?

H. pylori infection may lead to gastritis, dyspepsia, and gastric ulcers, and it is also linked to stomach cancer.3 Iron deficiency anemia in children has also been linked to H. pylori.4

What are the symptoms of H. pylori?

Many people who are infected with H. pylori don’t experience symptoms. When they do occur they can include:

  • Vomiting2
  • Burning5
  • Passing gas5
  • Gnawing pain2
  • Bloating5
  • Bad breath5
  • Nausea5
  • Belching5
  • Loss of appetite6

Is H. pylori contagious? How do people get infected?

It isn’t fully known how people become infected by H. pylori.1 Some studies have linked poor socioeconomic conditions and crowded living to a greater risk of infection.2 The risk of infection is much higher in developing countries as compared to developed countries. Other studies suggest that infection occurs most often during childhood.3

Are there consequences of having an H. pylori infection long-term?

A prolonged infection could result in an increased risk for developing ulcers and increase the risk for developing stomach cancer.3

How are you tested for H. pylori?

You can be tested for H. pylori infection by:

  • Breath – Urea breath tests measure active infections.
  • Stool – Stool samples are tested for active infections.
  • Blood – Blood tests find antibodies in the blood, but they cannot determine if the infection is active or from a previous infection.
  • Endoscopy – This surgical procedure requires a scope to look at the lining of the stomach directly.

Who should be tested for H. pylori?

Most often, the test is done on people who currently have a gastric ulcer or have had a gastric ulcer in the past as well as those who are at risk for stomach cancer. Anyone who suffers with indigestion (dyspepsia) that has not had any other testing done and is under the age of 55 with no complicating health factors can also be tested at the discretion of their health care provider. The test is often given again after completing treatment to make sure the infection is gone.3

How is an H. pylori infection treated?

Multiple antibiotic drugs are used simultaneously to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to any one of them. Additional treatments are also used to target any other conditions that may be present.3

What is a urea breath test?

A urea breath test (UBT) is a diagnostic test to determine if there is H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. During the test, breath samples collected before and shortly after drinking a drug solution are used to test for H. pylori.

Can I take the BreathTek UBT for H. pylori if I’ve taken antibiotics recently?

Taking antibiotics within 2 weeks prior to this test could cause inaccurate results.7

Can I take the BreathTek UBT for H. pylori if I’ve taken proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) recently?

Taking PPIs such as Aciphex® (rabeprazole), Nexium® (esomeprazole), Prevacid® (lansoprazole), Prilosec® (omeprazole), Prilosec OTC® (omeprazole), Protonix® (pantoprazole), Zegerid® (omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate), and Dexilant® (dexlansoprazole) within 2 weeks prior to this test could cause a false negative result.7 This means that although you are infected, the test would not reveal that the infection is positive. You would need to repeat the test 2 weeks after discontinuing the use of all PPIs. A positive result could be considered positive and be acted upon.

Can I take the BreathTek UBT for H. pylori if I have taken antacids?

You may continue taking antacids prior to testing. The use of antacids does not appear to affect the accuracy of the BreathTek UBT.

Can I take BreathTek UBT for H. pylori if I am pregnant or nursing?

The safety of using the BreathTek UBT kit during pregnancy and lactation is not established. Talk to your doctor to find out if BreathTek UBT for H. pylori is right for you.

After I’ve been treated, why should I take another test to confirm that I’m cured?

Sometimes an H. pylori infection is difficult to cure. Antibiotic resistance could affect the success of curing the infection. Taking a test to confirm that you are cured will help you feel confident that the infection is gone and reduce the risk of developing an ulcer or of symptoms returning.2

How long do I have to wait to take the eradication test?

An eradication test may be performed 4 weeks after completing the treatment prescribed by your doctor.7

If I haven’t fasted, can I still take the test?

You shouldn’t take the test unless you’ve fasted for 1 hour before the test is administered.7

Where can I take BreathTek UBT?

BreathTek UBT is available in many national and regional labs across the country. You can also find BreathTek UBT in some doctor’s offices. BreathTek UBT must be prescribed by a licensed health care professional.

Is BreathTek UBT covered by insurance?

BreathTek UBT is covered by many insurance plans. Check with your insurance provider to ensure that you are covered.

Helicobacter pylori. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/ulcer/files/hpfacts.pdf. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Ables AZ, Simin I, Melton ER. Update on Helicobacter pylori treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(3):351-358. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0201/p351.html. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Chey WD, Wong BCY; Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. American College of Gastroenterology guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am J Gastroenterol. 2007;102(8):1808-1825. http://s3.gi.org/physicians/guidelines/ManagementofHpylori.pdf. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Pacifico L, Anania C, Osborn JF, Ferraro F, Chiesa C. Consequences of Helicobacter pylori infection in children. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(41):5181-5194. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2975089/pdf/WJG-16-5181.pdf. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1327-1337. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0401/p1327.html. Accessed Oct 10, 2014.
Package Insert for BreathTek UBT. Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc; 2016.

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