Aim : To test the efficacy of rabeprazole, levofloxacin and rifabutin triple therapy vs. quadruple therapy for the second-line treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection.

Methods : One hundred and nine patients who had failed previous H. pylori eradication were randomized to receive: (i) rabeprazole, 20 mg b.d., rifabutin, 300 mg once daily, and levofloxacin, 500 mg once daily, for 7 days (triple therapy); or (ii) rabeprazole, 20 mg b.d., metronidazole, 400 mg t.d.s., bismuth subcitrate, 120 mg q.d.s., and tetracycline, 500 mg q.d.s., for 7 days (quadruple therapy). Endoscopy and culture were performed before treatment.

Results : The clarithromycin (79% vs. 21%, P < 0.001) and metronidazole (89% vs. 40%, P < 0.001) resistance rates were significantly higher in patients with previous exposure than in those with no previous exposure. The intention-to-treat and per protocol eradication rates were 91%/91% for the triple therapy group and 91%/92% for the quadruple therapy group. For patients with double resistance to metronidazole and clarithromycin, the eradication rates were 85% (17/20) in the triple therapy group and 87% (13/15) in the quadruple therapy group. Compliance was greater than 95% for both regimens.

Conclusion : Rabeprazole, levofloxacin and rifabutin-based triple therapy and quadruple therapy were equally effective as second-line treatments for H. pylori infection.