Article Abstract

Diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori by invasive test: histology

Authors: Ju Yup Lee, Nayoung Kim


The accurate detection of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a major cause of gastric cancer, is essential for managing infected patients. Among various diagnostic methods, histology plays a pivotal role in detecting H. pylori and it also provided more information about the degree of inflammation and associated pathology, such as, atrophic gastritis (AG), intestinal metaplasia (IM), and gastric cancer. The diagnosis of H. pylori could be performed in hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, however the specificity can be improved by special stains such as modified Giemsa, Warthin-Starry silver, Genta, and immunohistochemical (IHC) stains. Thus, at least two kinds of stain methods are recommended for diagnosis in practice; H&E staining is routine and Giemsa stain seems to have advantage over other stains because of its simplicity and consistency. IHC stain may be useful in special situations. However, histology has several limitations, including higher cost, longer turnaround time, dependence on the skills of the operator, and interobserver variability in assessment. Furthermore, the density of H. pylori can vary at different sites, possibly leading to sampling error, and the sensitivity of histology may decrease in patients taking proton pump inhibitor (PPI). The updated Sydney system recommend to take five biopsy specimens from different sites; however if this is not possible, the gastric body greater curvature could be a better site to detect current H. pylori infections, especially in the presence of peptic ulcer bleeding, AG and IM, or gastric cancer. In the presence of peptic ulcer bleeding, histology is also the most reliable test. PPIs can affect the result of histology and should be stopped 2 weeks before testing. Postbiopsy bleeding may be increased in patients with anticoagulation therapy, so careful precautions should be taken.