Background: Although enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is highly sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection in adults, their performance in children is still controversial.
Methods: A second-generation ELISA was used to evaluate the IgG response to H. pylori in the serum of 130 consecutive children who underwent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. The presence of H. pylori was determined in antral biopsy specimens by culture, urease test, and histologic analysis.
Results: Sixty-eight children (all of the 20 who had duodenal ulcer) were H. pylori positive by microbiologic test. Immunoglobulin G antibodies to H. pylori were detected in 79.4% of the infected children and in 8.1% of the noninfected ones. The sensitivity of the test was higher in patients with duodenal ulcer (100%) than in those without (70.8%). When used in children of different ages the test also presented differences in sensitivity: 44.4% in children 2 to 6 years old; 76.7% in children 7 to 11 years old, and 93.1% in children 12 to 16 years old (p = 0.006). The serum immunoglobulin G concentration was significantly higher (p = 0.0003) in children with duodenal ulcer than in those without and was higher in older children than in younger ones without duodenal ulcer (p = 0.05).
Conclusions: The accuracy of the test in children with duodenal ulcer and in children more than 12 years old was good; however, in children up to 12 years of age without duodenal ulcer, the sensitivity of the test was too low to be used for screening purposes or to rule out the presence of infection.