Aim: To compare the results of culture and epsilometer test with fluorescence in situ hybridization for the detection of Helicobacter pylori and the presence of clarithromycin-susceptible and clarithromycin-resistant strains in antral biopsies from children.
Methods: Antral biopsies from 149 unselected children were investigated prospectively; 15 had previously received anti-H. pylori therapy. H. pylori status was defined by histology, rapid urease test and 13C-urea breath test. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was applied on fresh tissue with probes specific for the clarithromycin-susceptible wild type and three clarithromycin-resistant mutants. Susceptibility to clarithromycin was tested by epsilometer test in two laboratories.
Results: Culture and fluorescence in situ hybridization gave negative results in all 66 H. pylori-negative children (specificity, 100%). Of 83 infected children, cultures were successful in 75 (90%), epsilometer test in 71 (86%) and fluorescence in situ hybridization in 77 (93%). Eleven children (13%) showed discrepant results between the applied methods, indicating mixed infection. Clarithromycin-resistant isolates were identified in 16 of 73 previously untreated children.
Conclusions: Primary resistance to clarithromycin is common (22%) in H. pylori isolates from children living in Germany. Fluorescence in situ hybridization is an excellent, fast method for the detection of H. pylori and clarithromycin-resistant mutants in gastric biopsies. Multiple biopsies identify mixed infections, indicating that clarithromycin-resistant and clarithromycin- susceptible strains are not evenly distributed within the stomach.