Review article:invasive and non-invasive tests for Helicobacter pylori infection

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Oct:14 Suppl 3:13-22. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2000.00096.x.


There are two general ways in which a diagnosis of infection by Helicobacter pylori can be made: by using either an invasive or non-invasive procedure. The invasive procedures involve an endoscopy and biopsy. A biopsy is essential because often the mucosa may appear macroscopically normal but nevertheless be inflamed. A biopsy is obtained by histological examination, culture, polymerase chain reaction or detection of the presence of urease activity in biopsy material. The non-invasive tests that can be used to diagnose the infection are serology, detection of labelled metabolic products of urea hydrolysis in the breath (13CO2, 14CO2), the urine or the blood, and detection of H, pylori antigen in a stool specimen. At present no single test can be relied upon to detect definitely colonization by H. pylori, and a combination of two is recommended if this is feasible. The choice of the test to be used is not straightforward and may vary according to the clinical condition and local expertise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breath Tests
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter Infections / microbiology
  • Helicobacter pylori* / drug effects
  • Humans