Background: Atrophic gastritis, a risk factor for gastric cancer, is a late consequence of Helicobacter pylori infection in approximately one-third of the infected patients. It has been suggested that gastric cancer would develop less frequently if H. pylori were eradicated. However, the prevalence of H. pylori infection may be underestimated in patients with atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia if only biopsy-based diagnostic methods are used.
Methods: We compared histology, 13C-urea breath test (13C-UBT), and serology in H. pylori diagnostics in 50 male patients with atrophic corpus gastritis.
Results: H. pylori was detected in 15 (30%) patients by histology and in 14 (28%) by 13C-UBT, whereas increased serum antibody levels indicating H. pylori infection were found in 41 (82%) patients (P < 0.0001 between serology and both histology and 13C-UBT). H. pylori infection was associated with atrophic corpus gastritis in 84% of the present patients (in one patient with normal antibody titres H. pylori was defined histologically).
Conclusions: H. pylori infection would have been missed in most patients with atrophic gastritis without the analysis of H. pylori antibodies. Therefore, in patients with atrophic gastritis, the use of serology is encouraged in diagnosing H. pylori infection.