What is Helicobacter pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (or H pylori) is a type of bacteria that is responsible for many cases of chronic gastritis and stomach ulcers.

Urea breath tests are a sensitive and specific test  and is an ideal test for determining the success of eradication therapy. It is also useful in those situations where endoscopy is not indicated.

What is a urea breath test?

Urea breath test (or UBT test) is a simple, sensitive and non-invasive way of testing patients to determine H. pylori status.

How is a urea breath test performed?

Certain medications that may affect the test need to be excluded, for up to 30 days before the test. A small dose containing Carbon-13 Urea (13C urea) is taken by mouth, and a breath sample is collected 30 minutes later. The test is not radioactive and can be performed on children, or pregnant women.

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Why would you need a urea breath test?

Nobel-Prize-winning research in Western Australia has recently (within the last 10-15 years) identified Helicobacter pylori as a major treatable cause of ulcers of the stomach and duodenum, and to a lesser extent gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Symptoms of these conditions include:

Upper abdominal pain

Upper abdominal pain, particularly pain where the timing is related to food or lack of food, and nausea or vomiting.


Heartburn or acid reflux is a similar symptom that is less consistently related to gastritis and H pylori as a cause.

Urea breath test results explained

A POSTIVE urea breath test for Helicobacter pylori means that the bacterium is present within the stomach, and may therefore be the cause of upper abdominal symptoms. H pylori eradication therapy may be prescribed by your doctor to kill the bacterium and therefore allow healing to occur.

A NEGATIVE urea breath test for Helicobacter pylori means that the bacterium probably is not present within the stomach, although it is possible for so-called false negatives to occur when certain medications are not witheld before the test.

Related specialists

Related procedures

  • Endoscopy of the Upper Gastrointstinal Tract

Related tests

Also known as

  • UBT test
  • 13C urea breath test
  • H pylori breath test
  • Urease breath test



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.