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Screening for Helicobacter pylori infection among students and staff of Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University – a pilot study
Introduction: Infection with Helicobacter pylori has been established as a major cause of chronic gastritis and peptic ulcers and is important in the pathogenesis of gastric cancer and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma. Previous studies showed that H. pylori eradication reduced the number of gastric cancer cases by 35% worldwide. In the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, 90.39%, 54.9% and 96.6%, respectively, of stomach biopsies of gastritis patients tested positive for H. pylori infection. Serological testing is generally accepted as a valid non-invasive screening method for detection of H. pylori infection. Aims and objectives: The study aimed to investigate the prevalence of H. pylori among healthy students and staff of Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU) using serology tests. Materials and methods: A self-administered screening questionnaire was distributed to students and staff of RAKMHSU and reviewed to determine eligibility. A 3ml blood sample was collected from 100 randomly selected asymptomatic volunteers, after obtaining their written consent, and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test was carried out at IBS Laboratories (Dubai, UAE) to detect serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) against H. pylori. Results: Out of the 307 respondents, 11 (3.58%) tested positive for H. pylori and the most frequently reported symptoms included upper gastrointestinal tract pain, heartburn, and nausea and vomiting (14.3%, 12.05% and 7.5%, respectively). Awareness of H. pylori infection was reported in 71% of the respondents. Only 100 of those who did not have any symptoms suggestive of upper gastrointestinal disease (those who were healthy) were serologically screened for anti H. pylori IgG and screening revealed 36 seropositive volunteers and four with equivocal results. The mean IgG titre was 3.92±2.00unit (U)/ml, 3.98±1.61U/ml and 6.13±1.61U/ml in the age groups 17–28 years, 29–40 years and ≥40 years, respectively. H. pylori seropositivity was detected with higher frequency in women (23/36, 63.89%) and in Arabs (20/36, 55.56%), followed by Asians (15/36, 41.67%). Six out of eight volunteers with a family history of H. pylori infection were seropositive. Conclusion: This pilot study revealed H. pylori seropositivity in 36% of apparently healthy university students and staff. Further studies on larger populations are warranted to estimate the cost-effectiveness of detecting and eradicating this bacterium from the population. Acknowledgements: We are grateful to IBS Laboratories personnel for their support.