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Utility of Breath Tests for GI Disorders Reviewed

Urea breath test most accurate, best validated

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The urea breath test for Helicobacter pylori is an accurate, non-invasive way to identify gastrointestinal (GI) infection before and after antibiotic therapy, researchers report in the December issue of Gastroenterology.

Richard Saad and William Chey of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, reviewed literature supporting the most commonly utilized breath tests in clinical practice, including those to test for H. pylori infection, carbohydrate malabsorption and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

The researchers found the urea breath test is a validated method to detect H. pylori infection, although sensitivity can be reduced by recent use of proton pump inhibitors, bismuth-containing compounds or antibiotics. They also found that breath tests used to identify carbohydrate maldigestion and malabsorption can aid in their diagnosis, however, a positive test does not indicate cause and effect in the presence of symptoms. The authors add that lactulose and glucose breath tests are inadequate for routine clinical use in detecting small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

The authors write, "Although endoscopy provides an accurate means by which to identify structural or histologic abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract, it is invasive, expensive and carries a small risk of complications. As such, there remains a need for simple, non-invasive, less expensive tests that can provide similar or supplemental information to endoscopy."

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