How 14C-urea breath test (UBT) works ?
The patient swallows a capsule with14C labelled urea. In the presence of Helicobacter pylori the urea is metabolised to carbon dioxide and ammonia by the urease enzyme produced by the bacteria.
H2N(14CO2)NH2O + H2O —(urease enzyme)—› 2NH3 + 14CO2
Although 14C capsule is radioactive (14C, half life 5730 years), the radioactivity the patient is exposed to when swallowing the capsule (27.8kBq(0.75μCi)) is very small, significantly less than the dose given during a normal X-ray. There are studies that have investigated the level of radiation doses when performing a 14C-urea breath test. The conclusion is that the dose is very small and the risk is negligible.
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