There are several different tests for H pylori infection. Each test has relative merits and drawbacks both in terms of cost and convenience for the patient.
#1 Urea Breath Test
Patients blow into a bag and the air is analysed for gases that are produced when H. pylori is living in the gut. This test is non-invasive and is easy to perform but recent research has questioned its accuracy, especially in low -level infections. Without medical insurance in the US, Longsee
expect to pay up to $1000.
#2 Blood Test
A blood sample is taken and analysed for antibodies to H pylori. This test is looking for your body’s reaction to the infection, not the H. pylori organism per se. Although it can be useful as an initial test, it is completely useless for re-testing after treatment because antibody levels to H pylori may remain elevated for many months or even years after the infection has gone. Having a blood draw is also very stressful for some people.
#3 Endoscopy / Biopsy
A tube is inserted into the patient’s mouth and passed down the throat into the stomach. A camera is used to identify inflammation, ulcers and hernias. A biopsy may be taken of the stomach tissue and analysed for H. pylori. Its main advantages are that it can detect physical damage to the stomach such as gastritis and ulcers. It can also detect hiatus hernias. Its disadvantages are that it is stressful, unpleasant and requires a clinic visit. Some clinics charge up to $5000 for this test.
#4 Stool Antigen Test
A stool sample is taken and analysed for H. pylori antigens (fragments of the cell wall of the bacteria. These tests are very accurate although some doctors do not know they exist. They are quick and convenient but they may still miss the infection if multiple stool samples are not taken. It should be noted that stool tests and breath tests are the most convenient for re-testing after treatment but medical guidelines state that a minimum of 4 weeks should pass after completion of treatment before re-testing is performed.
The main disadvantage with all medical tests for H pylori is that they only take into account the H pylori bacteria itself. The problem with this approach is that other digestive infections such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Blastocystis and threadworm can all cause the same symptoms as H pylori. Common foods can also create the same symptoms as H pylori. Some private labs have recently employed cutting edge technologies that enable a single stool sample to be analysed for the DNA of more than 25 potentially harmful bacteria, fungi and parasites.
This saves time and money on separate testing and ensures accurate diagnosis and treatment so that symptoms can be addressed quickly. These tests can also be performed at home, which makes them very convenient. They are also extremely affordable – you can expect to pay $230-$470 (£139-£272) for a test that checks for more than 25 different parasites, bacteria.