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GP screening for h.pylori 'is cost effective'

Population screening for Helicobacter pylori reduces future healthcare costs for those who test negative as well as those who are found to carry the bacterium, UK research shows.

The researchers suggested a screening programme of 40-50 year olds carried out in general practice would be feasible in the UK.

A large screening study in West Yorkshire found that negative participants who were informed of their test results were less likely to consult for dyspepsia over the next two years compared with those kept in the dark.

The biggest reduction in GP time, prescriptions and endoscopy for dyspepsia occurred in those who although asymptomatic at the time of testing, had a history of dyspepsia.

The researchers from the Centre for Digestive Diseases at Leeds General Infirmary calculated for every nine people being told of a negative test, one would be prevented from seeking healthcare for dyspepsia in the future.

Study leader Dr Alex Ford said the results were further evidence of the cost-effectiveness of dyspepsia screening but also backed up current ‘test and treat' guidance.

'We published a paper in 2005 looking at people who tested positive which showed you saved money over 10 years with population screening.

'But this is interesting because it's looking at the 73% who will test negative.'

He said countries such as the UK which have low prevalence of gastric cancer have shown reluctance to introduce a screening programme.

'But we show here there are benefits not related to gastric cancer.'

Co-author, Professor Paul Moayeddi, head of gastroen-terology at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada agreed that in the UK a serology-based screening programme of 40-50 year olds would be the best option.

He added: 'Test and treat is carried out in the UK more than most countries in the world but it is still sporadic.

'I would guess about 25% of GP test and treat regularly whilst the rest do it intermittently or not at all.'

As part of the screening study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1350 individuals who tested negative were told of their infection status and 1350 were given placebo triple therapy.

The study The study

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