Urease Breath Test for H. pylori


The urease breath test (UBT) is a test for diagnosing the presence of a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in the stomac1. H. pylori causes inflammation, ulcers, and atrophy of the stomach. The test also may be used to demonstrate that H. pylori has been eliminated by treatment with antibiotics.


The uresae breath test is used to detect Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that may infect the stomach and is a main cause of ulcers in both the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine)2

Test Principle:

 The urease breath test is based on the ability of H. pylori to break down urea, in this case a 14C radiolabeled urea is used.  H. Pylori bacteria has the enzyme urease that breaks down the urea into  nitrogen and carbon. The carbon is absorbed into circulation and eventually exhaled in breath as carbon dioxide into carbon dioxide which then is absorbed from the stomach and eliminated in the breath. 

Illustration of principle of urease breath test for H. Pylori



Test Preparation / Instructions:

 You should abstain from certain medications for several weeks and fast food and water a few hours before the test.

Test Procedure: 

  • During the test, you swallow a pill, liquid or pudding that contains 14c Urea
  • If you have H. pylori infection, 14c carbon is released when the solution comes in contact with H. pylori in your stomach.
  • The carbon is absorbed into circulation and eventually released as carbon dioxide when you breathe out. 
  • A a radio-detector is used to measure the amount of radioactive carbon from your breath

Results Interpretation: 

A positive result means that you have an active H. pylori infection. A negative result means that you do not have an active H. pylori infection.

Reference Range: 

The test is reported as either positive or negative

Follow-up Testing: 

If you have a positive result on a urease breath test, your doctor may recommend endoscopy with biopsy to determine if you have an active H. pylori infection.

Related Tests

Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) Tests

Liver Function Test: A Comprehensive Guide


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