A joint team from Queen's University, Belfast and the University of Southampton, have investigated whether the family unit plays a significant role in pediatric re-infection with Helicobacter pylori.
It is widely accepted that the family unit plays a large part in primary childhood infection, and re-infection with H. pylori is known to be more common in children than adults.
The research team, led by Dr Stephen Farrell, therefore investigate whether eradication of H. pylori from the whole family reduces the risk of childhood re-infection.
The study recruited 50 families, each with an H. pylori-infected pediatric index case (mean age 9.48 years).
A 13carbon urea breath test was performed on all family members in the same house as the index case.
Each family unit was then randomized into a 'family unit treatment' group (all infected family members treated) or an 'index case treatment' group (index case only treated).
The study families were all tested again at long-term follow-up (mean 62.2 months), at which stage there were 3 re-infected children in the 'index case treatment' group compared with 1 in the 'family unit treatment' group.
The re-infection rate was 2.4% per patient per year in the 'index case treatment' group and 0.7% per patient per year in the 'family unit treatment' group.
"This study is the first to evaluate the effect of total family unit H. pylori eradication on pediatric re-infection rates and reports the longest period of re-infection follow-up in children", commented Dr Farrell when asked about his team's work.
"However, he added, "In childhood, re-infection with H. pylori is not significantly reduced by family unit H. pylori eradication."