What is Helicobacter Pylori – IgA?
When the H.pylori or helicobacter pylori bacteria enter the human body, the body releases certain antigens or antibodies in response to the infection. IgA or immunoglobulin A is a type of antibody that is found in high concentrations along the mucous membrane of respiratory and gastrointestinal passage. An elevated level of this IgA antibody indicates the onset of an infection. H.pylori IgA level is thus used to diagnose an infection caused by the bacteria.
How does an H.pylori infection affect the human body?
H.pylori bacteria is transferred from one person to another via kissing or mouth-to-mouth contact. It can also enter the human body via contaminated food or water. It can easily survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and intestines by neutralizing the digestive acids. By weakening the protective sheath lining the gastrointestinal tract, it leads to the formation of peptic ulcers and duodenal ulcers. It is also identified as the prime cause of gastritis.
How effective is an H.pylori IgA test in diagnosing GI tract infections?
Serological monitoring or blood test analysis results have revealed that with the onset of H.pylori infection, the IgA antibodies start appearing earlier than H.pylori IgE antibodies, especially in case of recurrent infections that were successfully treated via antibiotics. The rise of IgA antibodies has shown co-relation with 95% of active H.pylori infections and 75% of peptic/duodenal ulcers along with gastritis. Thus, this particular blood test is highly recommended if an individual is showing symptoms of GI ulceration and gastritis.
What are the symptoms of an H.pylori infection?
During the initial stages of H.pylori infection, a person might show these symptoms:
– Abdominal pain and discomfort
– Nausea and vomiting
The more advanced and serious symptoms include:
– Frequent and excessive vomiting
– Vomiting blood
– Halitosis or bad breath
– Dark stools (presence of bleeding in the GI tract)
– Severe heartburn
Since these symptoms often overlap with other digestive disorders, it is common that H.pylori infections go un-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Can H.pylori infection cause cancer?
Yes, recurrent H.pylori infections tend to weaken the GI lining and thus expose the GI tract to further infections and tumors. It has been observed that this bacteria can result in long-term inflammation of stomach lining (also known as SCAG or severe chronic atrophic gastritis) which shoots up the risk of stomach cancer in an individual.
In addition to stomach cancer, H.pylori is also believed to be responsible for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, bowel cancer, and esophagal cancer.
How is H.pylori infection diagnosed?
There are several methods of diagnosis used to determine the onset of H.pylori infection.
Blood test – Serological analysis of the patient’s blood sample could reveal elevated levels of antibodies associated with H.pylori infection.
Breath Test – In this test, you swallow a pill or a liquid that contains specifically tagged carbon molecules. If you have H. pylori infection, the solution is broken down in your stomach and the tagged carbon is released. This carbon is exhaled out and can be detected using the breath test to establish H.pylori presence.
Stool test – Just as the blood test looks for specific antigens associated with infection, in the same way, a stool sample can also be checked for the H.pylori antibodies.
Endoscopy – This procedure involves endoscopy of the upper GI tract where a scope is inserted into the tract to look for abnormalities in the stomach lining and also collect tissue samples for biopsy.
How is an H.pylori – IgA test performed?
An H.pylori – IgA blood test follows the steps of a routine venipuncture procedure:
– The blood sample is collected from the arm (opposite side of your elbow).
– The healthcare specialist will rub a small amount of antiseptic solution on the skin and a tourniquet or elastic band will be tied across your arm.
– This will increase the pressure on the veins and make it easier to find the desired vein for collecting the blood sample.
– Once the correct vein has been identified, a syringe will be inserted and blood will be drawn from the vein.
– The blood will be collected in a vial attached to the syringe.
– Once the sample is collected, the healthcare specialist will cover the puncture site with a sterile bandage to prevent bleeding and infection.
– This sample will be sent to the lab for checking for the H.pylori IgA antibody presence.
How should I prepare for H.pylori- IgA blood test?
– Fasting is not required for the H.pylori IgA blood test.
– No special preparation is needed.
– Inform your doctor if you have bleeding disorders or are on blood-thinning medications.
– If you are on acid-suppressing drugs, inform your doctor about the same. This is because these medicines can interfere with the test results.
What is the cost of the H.pylori – IgA test in India?
The H.pylori -IgA test is often prescribed along with the IgG test, the total test costing close to Rs. 3000. This price may vary as per the city and diagnostic facilities available.
When will I get my test results?
It takes around 1-2 days for the results of the test to be available.
What are the normal reference values for this test?
|0 – 8.9||Negative|
|9 – 11||Equivocal|
How to interpret the H.pylori – IgA test report?
Negative – A negative test indicates that it is unlikely that you have an H. pylori infection. The signs and symptoms of vomiting, nausea, and abdominal discomfort may be due to another cause. However, if symptoms persist or keep recurring, additional testing should be done. Doctors generally advise undergoing a more invasive tissue biopsy, to more conclusively rule out serious infections.
Positive – Positive test report indicates that the symptoms are because of an active H.pylori infection and require immediate treatment with antibiotics.
Equivocal – Equivocal refers to the state where the analysis has yielded results that could be classified as positive and negative. If an individual’s sample yields an equivocal result it often means that the test must be repeated.
What medications can affect the test results?
– Antacids such as Pepto-Bismol or Gelusil
– Proton-Pump Inhibitors including pantoprazole
If you are on these medications, your doctor will ask you to stop the intake at least a week before the sample collection.
How widespread are H.pylori infections in India?
H.pylori infections are quite widespread in India with some rural areas showing as high as 80% incidence of the same in the general population. Overcrowding and lack of sanitation are the major reasons why these infections are common in low and middle-income countries. Blood test reports have revealed that in children under the age of 5, the prevalence rate ranges between 22-57% which increases to 80-90% among the population aged 20 and above.
What are the risks associated with the H.pylori- IgA test?
This is a relatively risk-free and simple procedure. You might feel a slight stinging sensation when the blood is being drawn. Some may complain of feeling slightly dizzy but this remains short-lived. In rare cases, there might be some bruising or infection at the site of puncture. If any of these side-effects persist for a longer time, refer to your healthcare specialist.
Is this test recommended during pregnancy?
Yes, this test can be prescribed to pregnant women in case they are showing symptoms of gastric ulcers or gastritis. Pregnancy and childbirth cause the levels of IgA, IgM, and IgG antibodies levels to increase. During (and after gestation), the normal reading for IgA is taken as 11-12 units. The levels are higher just after delivery when compared to those during pregnancy.
Can children undergo an H.pylori – IgAtest?
Yes, children can safely undergo this test. In the case of babies, the blood will be collected from the heel rather than the arm. However, a saliva test might also be recommended in addition to the blood test because in many cases babies and children have not developed a full immune response for the H.pylori infection.
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