Epidemiological studies using serological tests have shown that a large proportion of healthy people have antibodies against Helicobacter pylori (anti-Hp). It is uncertain whether the presence of anti-Hp indicates active infection or only past exposure to the micro-organism. In this study we determined anti-Hp with a specific enzyme linked immunosorbent assay in 100 healthy volunteers who were at the same time investigated for active H pylori infection by means of the 13C-urea breath test. Forty nine per cent had a high anti-Hp titre, but only 24% had active H pylori infection. Our study suggests that a considerable number of healthy people previously infected with H pylori have spontaneously eliminated this microorganism. We suggest that the inability of ulcer patients to eliminate H pylori may be important in the pathogenesis of peptic ulcer disease.
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