String Test: Effective and Inexpensive Method for Detecting Helicobacter pylori
Mar 11, 2006 - 8:36:37 PM

Swallowing a string may offer a simple and effective alternative to costly and invasive techniques used for detecting Helicobacter pylori in patients say researchers from the U.S. and abroad. They report their findings in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Helicobacter pylori is a gram negative bacterium known for causing chronic gastric distress in individuals worldwide and can lead to the development of peptic ulcers and early onset of gastric cancer. Current methods for detecting H. pylori infection do provide highly sensitive and specific results, but they can be costly, invasive, and uncomfortable.

In the study 35 patients with gastric complaints were administered the string test (or Entero test) which involves swallowing a capsule with a protruding absorbent string whose end is held outside the mouth. The ingested string is then retrieved and microbes from the gastrointestinal tract are recovered and studied. H. pylori was cultured from 80% of the strings of those patients who had also undergone extensive biopsy procedures and received positive results. No organisms were found on strings taken from patients whose biopsy results were negative.

"Our study shows that the string test, which is minimally invasive, inexpensive, and not dependent on sophisticated or costly equipment or radioactivity, allows culture of H. pylori from infected persons about 80% as efficiently as endoscopic gastric biopsies," say the researchers. "We suggest that the H. pylori string test assays will be of increasing importance in a public health context."

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