According to the latest statistics, roughly twelve million Italians suffer from gastritis and another one million Italians unknowingly carry ulcers. In more than 90 % of cases these problems are caused by infections with Helicobacter pylori. This remarkable discovery of the two Australian pathologists, Robin J. Warren and Barry J. Marshall, was rewarded with the Nobel price in 2005.
Today Helicobacter pylori is not only recognized as a risk factor for the development of gastric ulcers and the gastroesophageal reflux disease, but according to some studies may be responsible of other diseases as well. This bacterium is so dangerous that in 1994 Helicobacter pylori was classified as one of the most important oncogenes causing stomach cancer. This compares to the risk to develop lung cancers through smoking.
In the Maastricht Consensus Reports of 2000 and 2007, the European Helicobacter Study Group has detailed guidelines for management of Helicobacter pylori infections and confirmed the validity of the “test and treat” strategy consisting of a non-invasive screening for Helicobacter pylori (e.g. with the urea breath test) and the treatment of Helicobacter pylori positive patients; in particular in cases with persistent dyspepsia and more than 45 years of age and for patients in long-term treatment with antisecretory drugs.
According to the Consensus Conference, the 13C-urea breath test represents a first-choice non-invasive method for evaluation of the antibiotic treatment aimed at eradicating a Helicobacter pylori infection.