Sunday, August 9, 1998 Published at 20:07 GMT 21:07 UK
User friendly treatment for stomach ulcers
Babies pick up the infection
Doctors have developed a faster, more effective way of eradicating the bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers.
Currently the most commonly prescribed drug treatments for Helicobacter pylori run for 14-28 days and involve multiple doses of pills each day.
But a research team from Oregon has found that 10 days of treatment with a combination of three drugs may be enough to eradicate the bacterium, believed to be responsible for 90% of stomach ulcers.
Writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, lead researcher Dr Brian Fennerty said: "This research should have a major impact.
"A shorter drug regimen is less expensive and should ensure that more patients complete their full treatment."
Researchers focused on "triple therapy," which has been shown to have a higher H. pylori cure rate than other methods.
The triple therapy is a combination of three drugs: a powerful acid-inhibiting drug called a proton-pump inhibitor along with amoxicillin and clarithromycin.
The study included 236 patients at 46 study sites around the US.
Patients in the study took the triple therapy drugs twice a day for either 10 or 14 days.
Among those patients who followed the full course of treatment, H. pylori was eradicated in 85% of patients on the 14-day treatment and in 84% of patients on the 10-day regimen, a statistically insignificant difference.
Dr Fennerty said: "With this knowledge, we're hopeful of achieving a higher cure rate for H. pylori. Ten days is a much more patient-friendly treatment regimen than 14 days. If there are fewer pills to take, you stand a better chance that patients will take all their pills."
Big success story
Treatment of H. pylori has been one of the big medical success stories of the past two decades.
The bacterium is almost always acquired in infancy - from contact with faeces or bodily fluids - and exists harmlessly in many adults' digestive systems.
Thanks to improved public hygeine, the incidence of H. pylori has been dropping steadily over the past decades.
Stomach ulcer patients in whom H. pylori is eradicated have only a 15 to 20% chance of suffering from another ulcer. Those who still carry H. pylori have a 75% chance of recurrence.