If your doctor suspects you might have something more interesting than “an upset stomach” they might prescribe a H.Pylori test to see if there’s a certain type of bacteria living in your stomach causing problems.
The test kit comes on prescription and is one of those curious things where I bought it, but I don’t actually do anything with it except take it to the appointment I have with the nurse in two week’s time. The nurse will then do the test using the kit. I’m sure this little routine is just so that someone pays for it, rather than them giving it away for free.
So let’s look inside to see what our £7.40 prescription charge gets us (this is why we need to keep the NHS! Imagine getting this in the US, I can easily see them charging $50 for the kit and $100 for the test results).
Inside the kit is almost a mini chemistry set full of fun looking test tubes, a bottle thing and some straws, plus some sealed packets. The H.Pylori test is quite clever, involving a certain non-naturally occurring isotope of carbon that gets metabolised by the bacteria and somehow absorbed by me. I then breathe this out and the lab tests to see if there is any of the carbon-13 in my breath.
So the white tubes are a ‘before’ control sample, and the red tubes are the ‘after’ sample. No part of the test involves me peeing into anything (so now you’re confused where the ‘urea’ part comes in, aren’t you). The test involves drinking a nice lemon flavoured mix of ascorbic acid, and then an even nicer mix of urea. The Internet seems to imply this is what the bacteria metabolises (does that mean I end up with a stomach full of ammonia?).
Should be an entertaining evening in the doctor’s then, with lots of sitting around waiting for things to happen. I’d best make sure my Kindle is charged.