European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 169, Issue 1, pp 15–25

Helicobacter pylori diagnostic tests in children: review of the literature from 1999 to 2009

  • Jeannette Guarner
  • Nicolas Kalach
  • Yoram Elitsur
  • Sibylle Koletzko

DOI: 10.1007/s00431-009-1033-x

Cite this article as:
Guarner, J., Kalach, N., Elitsur, Y. et al. Eur J Pediatr (2010) 169: 15. doi:10.1007/s00431-009-1033-x


The array of tests that can be used for diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection is large, and it can be confusing to define which test to use particularly in children where results may not be comparable to those obtained in adult patients. Using PubMed, we reviewed the English literature from January 1999 to May 2009 to identify articles that determined sensitivity and specificity of H. pylori invasive and non-invasive diagnostic tests in children. We excluded articles that presented a review of the literature, abstracts, case reports, or series where children’s results could not be separated from adult populations. Of the tissue based methods, rapid urease tests have better sensitivity than histology to detect presence of H. pylori; however, histology can detect the pathology associated with disease including gastritis, intestinal metaplasia, and other conditions that could be the cause of the child’s symptoms. Culture of gastric tissues or stool has 100% specificity but sensitivity is low. Of the serologic tests, immunoblot has the best sensitivity. The urea breath tests have >75% sensitivity for detection of H. pylori before and after treatment. Immunoassays in stool using monoclonal antibodies have >95% sensitivity for detection of H. pylori before and after treatment. PCR testing can be performed in tissue and stool samples and can detect genes associated to antibiotic resistance. In summary, the current commercial non-invasive tests have adequate sensitivity and specificity for detecting the presence of H. pylori; however, endoscopy with histopathology is the only method that can detect H. pylori and lesions associated with the infection.


Helicobacter pyloriDiagnosisChildrenHistologySerologyUrea breath testsStool

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeannette Guarner
    • 1
  • Nicolas Kalach
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yoram Elitsur
    • 4
  • Sibylle Koletzko
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Pathology and Laboratory MedicineEmory University Hospital (rm C179A)AtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neonatology–PediatricsCochin-St Vincent de Paul HospitalParisFrance
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsSaint Vincent de Paul Hospital, Catholic University of LilleLilleFrance
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsMarshall UniversityHuntingtonUSA
  5. 5.Dr. v. Haunersches KinderspitalLudwig Maximillians UniversityMunichGermany