The aim of this study was to find out if reinfection or recrudescence accounted for the recurrence of Helicobacter pylori infections after apparent eradication of the bacterium. Three hundred and twenty patients were treated with colloidal bismuth subcitrate (120 mg four times daily for four weeks), metronidazole and tetracycline (400 mg and 500 mg, respectively, thrice daily for the first week). H pylori was eradicated four weeks after the end of treatment as assessed by the rapid urease test, histological examination, Gram staining, and culture. However, the infection recurred in 29 (9.1%) of the patients one year after apparent eradication. Pre and posteradication isolates from five patients were available. DNA was extracted and used for restriction endonuclease analysis with Hind III and Hae III, and for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting with a combination of two 10 nucleotide primers. Sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoretic analysis was performed also. Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting was unique in that it yielded highly discriminatory fingerprints, which showed that the pretreatment and recurrent isolates obtained from each of the five patients were indistinguishable from one another. This shows that recurrence of H pylori infection is probably caused by recrudescence and that the discriminatory power of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting is a practicable and discriminatory typing scheme for H pylori.
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