Previous studies with Helicobacter pylori infected barrier born pigs indicate that the infection has a patchy distribution, resulting in false negative culture results on endoscopic biopsy specimens. This study aimed to adapt the 13C-urea breath test as used in humans to diagnose H pylori infection in barrier born pigs. The breath test was also performed after bismuth as a single treatment and after triple therapy (bismuth, ampicillin, metronidazole). In control pigs the median excess of 13CO2 in expired air was 2.2 (range 0-12 n = 22) ppm. The infected pigs (n = 4) showed consistently high values (median 23 range 14-43) when examined on four occasions (n = 16) four to 10 weeks after inoculation. Biopsy specimens for culture had lower sensitivity than the breath test. No reduction in excess 13CO2 was seen after three days' single bismuth treatment, but after two weeks' triple therapy the breath test results had returned to normal. This suppression was temporary only, however, as the breath test was positive again four weeks after stopping treatment. In conclusion, the 13C-urea breath test is a simple and reliable test for determining H pylori infection and monitoring treatment effects in barrier born pigs. Because the test can be performed in awake pigs anaesthesia and gastroscopy are unnecessary.
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