A non-invasive serological assay devised in this laboratory had a sensitivity and specificity of 100% as determined by culture and confirmed by histology in a group of 47 patients who had undergone endoscopy. The correlation between serology and the non-invasive [14C] breath test was very good. Only one of 24 culture positive patients was, while all 23 culture negative patients were, breath test negative. In a group of 46 healthy elderly persons, however, significant anomalies between serology and breath test were observed. Only 83% of the breath test negative persons were seronegative, while only 68% of the breath test positive persons were seropositive. These results can be explained in terms of age related atrophic gastritis and immune incompetence, causing reduced colonisation and decreased antibody production, respectively. These investigations suggest that non-invasive tests for H pylori infection may not be reliable in the elderly.
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