Background: There is a strong association between infection with Helicobacter pylori and gastric ulcers that are unrelated to the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications. We studied the efficacy of antibacterial therapy without medication to suppress gastric acid for the treatment of patients with H. pylori infection and gastric ulcers unrelated to the use of nonsteroidal agents.
Methods: Patients with gastric ulcers seen on endoscopy and with H. pylori infection confirmed by smear or culture were randomly assigned to receive either a one-week course of antibacterial agents (120 mg of bismuth subcitrate, 500 mg of tetracycline, and 400 mg of metronidazole, each given orally four times a day) or a four-week course of omeprazole (20 mg orally per day). Follow-up endoscopies were performed after five and nine weeks. The patients and their physicians were aware of the treatment assignments, but the endoscopists were not.
Results: A total of 100 patients were randomly assigned to treatment, and 85 completed the trial. At five weeks, H. pylori had been eradicated in 41 of the 45 patients in the antibacterial-treatment group (91.1 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 82.9 to 99.3) and in 5 of the 40 in the omeprazole group (12.5 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.3 to 22.7; P < 0.001). The gastric ulcers were healed in 38 of the patients treated with antibacterial drugs (84.4 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 73.9 to 95.0) and in 29 of those treated with omeprazole (72.5 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 58.6 to 86.4; P = 0.28). At nine weeks, ulcer healing was confirmed in 43 of the patients receiving antibacterial therapy and in 37 of those receiving omeprazole (P = 1.0). The mean (+/- SD) duration of pain during the first week of treatment was 1.9 +/- 2.6 days in the omeprazole group, as compared with 3.6 +/- 3.0 days in the antibacterial-treatment group (P = 0.004). One year after treatment, recurrent gastric ulcers were detected in 1 of 22 patients (4.5 percent) in the antibacterial-treatment group and in 12 of 23 (52.2 percent) in the omeprazole group (P = 0.001). H. pylori was detected in the 1 patient with a recurrent ulcer who had received antibacterial treatment and in 10 of the 12 patients with recurrent ulcers who had received omeprazole.
Conclusions: In patients with H. pylori infection and gastric ulcers unrelated to the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, one week of antibacterial therapy without acid suppression heals the ulcers as well as omeprazole and reduces the rate of their recurrence.