- Helicobacter pylori is the causative agent of chronic gastritis, peptic ulcers, and is also associated with gastric cancer. Eradication of H pylori infection has proven to be difficult to confirm. The authors developed a nonradioactive in situ hybridization method for detection of H pylori and compared it with conventional methods for diagnosis of the infection. Reverse transcription followed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with two 22-base primers was used to amplify a 520 base pair (bp) segment of 16S rRNA from H pylori. The PCR product was labeled with digoxigenin and used as a probe. Specificity of the probe was tested by dot blot hybridization against DNA from 30 different strains of related and unrelated bacteria. Specificity of in situ hybridization assay was proven by the lack of hybridization on sections with gram negative and positive bacteria other than H pylori, with an unrelated probe, without probe, and after RNase treatment. A random sample of 15 biopsy specimens was blindly studied by in situ hybridization method and the results were compared with those of culture and conventional histology. Comparison of in situ hybridization and conventional histology showed agreement in all 15 specimens (5 negative and 10 positive). Between culture and in situ hybridization there was agreement in 13 cases (8 positive, 5 negative). Two cases were negative by culture but positive by in situ hybridization and histology. Nonradioactive in situ hybridization provides a sensitive and specific method for detection of H pylori infection. It should be particularly useful for confirmation of infection in cases equivocal with other methods, and potentially useful in post-treatment evaluation.