It has been proposed that the hypergastrinaemia in subjects with Helicobacter pylori infection is caused by the action of the ammonia produced by the organism's urease activity on the antral G cells. To investigate this hypothesis we examined the effect on plasma gastrin of increasing the bacterium's ammonia production by infusing urea intragastrically to eight H pylori positive duodenal ulcer patients. After a 60 minute control intragastric infusion of dextrose solution at 2 ml/minute, a similar infusion containing urea (50 mmol/l) was continued for four hours. During the urea infusion, the median gastric juice urea concentration rose from 1.1 mmol/l (range 0.3-1.6) to 15.5 mmol/l (range 7.9-21.3) and this resulted in an increase in the ammonium concentration from 2.3 mmol/l (range 1.3-5.9) to 6.1 mmol/l (range 4.2-11.9) (p less than 0.01). This appreciable rise in ammonia production did not result in any change in the plasma gastrin concentration. The experiment was repeated one month after eradication of H pylori, at which time the median basal gastrin was 20 ng/l (range 15-25), significantly less than the value before eradication (30 ng/l range 15-60) (p less than 0.05). On this occasion, the gastric juice ammonium concentration was considerably reduced at 0.4 mmol/l (range 0.1-0.9) and the urea infusion did not raise the ammonium concentration or change the plasma gastrin concentration. In conclusion, augmenting H pylori ammonia production does not cause any early change in plasma gastrin.
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