Background: Chronic infection of the stomach with Helicobacter pylori is widespread throughout the world and is the major cause of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Short-term benefit results from community programmes to eradicate the infection, but there is little information on cumulative long-term benefit.
Aim: To determine whether a community programme of screening for and eradication of H. pylori infection produces further benefit after an initial 2-year period, as judged by a reduction in GP consultations for dyspepsia.
Methods: A total of 1517 people aged 20-59 years, who were registered with seven general practices in Frenchay Health District, Bristol, had a positive (13)C-urea breath test for H. pylori infection and were entered into a randomized double-blind trial of H. pylori eradication therapy. After 2 years, we found a 35% reduction in GP consultations for dyspepsia (previously reported). In this extension to the study, we analysed dyspepsia consultations between two and 7 years after treatment.
Results: Between two and 7 years after treatment, 81/764 (10.6%) of participants randomized to receive active treatment consulted for dyspepsia, compared with 106/753 (14.1%) of those who received placebo, a 25% reduction, odds ratio 0.84 (0.71, 1.00), P = 0.042.
Conclusions: Eradication of H. pylori infection in the community gives cumulative long-term benefit, with a continued reduction in the development of dyspepsia severe enough to require a consultation with a general practitioner up to at least 7 years. The cost savings resulting from this aspect of a community H. pylori eradication programme, in addition to the other theoretical benefits, make such programmes worthy of serious consideration, particularly in populations with a high prevalence of H. pylori infection.