Helicobacter Pylori Culture
Does this test have other names?
H. pylori culture
What is this test?
This test finds out if you are infected with Helicobacter pylori bacteria. This is
a common bacterium. It's more common in developing nations and has been linked to
poor hygiene in living conditions, especially for children. Infection is more common
in children than adults.
A culture test means that a tissue sample is placed in a special dish or tube containing
nutrients normally found in the organism's environment. If H. pylori bacteria are
present in the sample, they will reproduce and grow until they can be seen under a
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects you have an H. pylori
infection. Symptoms of an H. pylori infection are mainly in the stomach and digestive
tract. They include abdominal pain, ulcers, and diarrhea. In some children, the infection
is linked with stunted growth. It also increases the risk for stomach cancer.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Although a culture is the most accurate testing method, your healthcare provider may
order a less invasive test.
One example is a breath test. For a breath test, you will drink liquid or take a capsule
that contains a small amount of harmless radioactive material. Your healthcare provider
will then check levels of this material in your breath. If H. pylori bacteria are
present in your stomach, the bacteria will break down this radioactive substance.
Other noninvasive tests for H. pylori look at samples of blood, saliva, or stool.
New minimally invasive tests are being developed. One is called the Entero-Test, or
string test. For this test, you swallow a capsule attached to an absorbent nylon string.
The capsule dissolves in your stomach, and the healthcare provider removes the string
and collects a sample to culture. This method is not yet in common use.
What do my test results mean?
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used
for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem.
Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
The culture will either be positive or negative for H. pylori bacteria. A positive
test means that you have the bacteria. A negative, or normal, test means that you
do not have it.
How is this test done?
This test is done by taking samples of stomach tissue. The tissue samples are collected
during a process called endoscopy. A gastroenterologist does endoscopies in an outpatient
Before an endoscopy, you may be given a sedative. Your throat will be sprayed with
medicine so you won't feel the endoscope as much. Then you will swallow the endoscope,
a thin, flexible tube about as thick as your little finger. When the endoscope is
in your stomach, your healthcare provider will use it to take samples, or biopsies,
of stomach tissue. The entire procedure usually takes about 15 minutes.
Does this test pose any risks?
Endoscopy is a fairly safe procedure, but it's likely you will feel some discomfort
when swallowing the endoscope. This often eases after the endoscope passes through
the throat. There is also a slight risk for a reaction to the sedatives, bleeding
from the biopsy, or upper GI tearing from having an endoscopy.
What might affect my test results?
Your results may also be affected by medicines you may be taking to treat ulcers and
How do I get ready for this test?
This test requires that you not take certain medicines such as antibiotics or bismuth
subsalicylate for one month before the procedure. You should not take medicines for
gastroesophageal reflux disease, such as omeprazole or esomeprazole, for up to one
week before the test. You should not take medicines such as ranitidine and famotidine for
24 hours before the test. In addition, you should fast for 6 hours before the test.
Check with your healthcare provider before stopping any medicines. Be sure your provider
knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes
medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.