Noninvasive detection of Helicobacter pylori infection in clinical practice: the 13C urea breath test

Am J Gastroenterol. 1996 Apr;91(4):690-4.


Objectives: To validate the 13C urea breath test for the detection of Helicobacter pylori infection both before and after treatment.

Methods: 13C urea breath tests with 125-mg and 250-mg doses were carried out on each of 60 infected and 60 noninfected subjects. Results were compared with histological examination of gastric biopsies to establish detection limits. The best cut-off point was used in a clinical trial of the efficacy of the breath test in duodenal ulcer patients before and after antimicrobial therapy. The incremental increase (percentage, delta over baseline in U of delta/mil) in respiratory 13CO2 abundance was associated with histological evidence of H.pylori. Outpatient, tertiary care medical center, and secondary and primary care facilities were included. One hundred twenty healthy asymptomatic subjects and 465 patients with duodenal ulcer disease were studied. The test kit assessed repeatability of breath sample collection and storage and stability of stored samples. Test performance was analyzed by comparison of 125-mg and 250-mg 13C urea with measurements at 30 and 40 min postdose. The test was used to diagnose active H.pylori infection and gauge success of antimicrobial therapy.

Results: The test kit results were highly reproducible. The cut-off values were higher with 250-mg compared with 125-mg doses of 13C urea and 40 min compared with 30 min. Using a 125-mg 13C urea and test detection limit of 2.4% at 30 min, the accuracy was 94.8 (95% confidence interval = 92-97%) before antimicrobial therapy and 95.4% (95% confidence interval = 91-98%) after. An increase of 2.4% in the abundance of breath 13CO2 measured 30 min after a 125-mg dose of 13C urea reliably indicated the presence of active H.pylori infection either before or after antimicrobial therapy. The 13C urea breath test provides a simple and reliable and noninvasive method of assessing H.pylori status.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breath Tests* / methods
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Duodenal Ulcer / microbiology*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter Infections / drug therapy
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • ROC Curve
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Urea* / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Urea