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Little is known about Helicobacter pylori infections and the immune response to urease and CagA in pediatric populations. Our aims were: 1) to validate serological assays for antibodies against whole cell extract, CagA, and urease of H. pylori; 2) to examine their role in diagnosis of infection in children with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP); and 3) to examine the antibody responses to CagA and urease in children. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for diagnosis of H. pylori infection using whole cell extracts was validated in 50 children with biopsy-confirmed infection. The IgG and IgA antibody responses against recombinant CagA and urease were compared by ELISA in 82 children with RAP and in 246 age- and sex-matched healthy children. The whole-cell extract ELISA had a sensitivity of 85 % and specificity of 87%. Children with RAP were more infected with H. pylori than were healthy control subjects; however, IgG and IgA CagA seropositivity was lower among those with RAP than among asymptomatic children (34% and 23% vs 76% and 55%, respectively; p < 0.0001). In both groups of children, the immune response to urease was low. A serodiagnosis of H. pylori infection using native strains was developed. The difference in the immune response between children with RAP and control subjects suggests that RAP occurs during the acute phase of H. pylori infection. Our results also suggest that urease is a poor immunogen.

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