Background: Infection with Helicobacter pylori is the main cause of peptic-ulcer disease. Treatment of this infection might lower the prevalence of dyspepsia in the community and improve quality of life. We investigated this possibility in a double-blind randomised controlled trial.
Methods: Individuals aged 40-49 years were randomly selected from the lists of 36 primary-care centres. A researcher interviewed participants with a validated dyspepsia questionnaire and the psychological general wellbeing index (PGWB). H. pylori status was assessed by the carbon-13-labelled urea breath test. Infected participants were randomly assigned active treatment (omeprazole 20 mg, clarithromycin 250 mg, and tinidazole 500 mg, each twice daily for 7 days) or identical placebo. Participants were followed up at 6 months and 2 years.
Findings: Of 32,929 individuals invited, 8455 attended and were eligible; 2324 were positive for H. pylori and were assigned active treatment (1161) or placebo (1163). 1773 (76%) returned at 2 years. Dyspepsia or symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux were reported in 247 (28%) of 880 in the treatment group and 291 (33%) of 871 in the placebo group (absolute-risk reduction 5% [95% CI 1-10]). H. pylori treatment had no significant effect on quality of life (mean difference in PGWB score between groups 0.86 [-0.33 to 2.05]).
Interpretation: Community screening and treatment for H. pylori produced only a 5% reduction in dyspepsia. This small benefit had no impact on quality of life.