Background : Helicobacter pylori infection may persist after both first- and second-line current treatments.

Aim : To assess the efficacy of a third-line, culture-guided treatment approach for the eradication of H. pylori.

Methods : Patterns of resistance were analysed in H. pylori isolates from 94 consecutive patients in whom H. pylori infection had persisted after two eradication attempts. Using the epsilometer test, susceptibility analysis was performed for amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, tetracycline and levofloxacin. Patients were then treated with a culture-guided, third-line regimen: 89 patients with a 1-week quadruple regimen including omeprazole, bismuth, doxycycline and amoxicillin, and five patients with a 1-week triple regimen containing omeprazole, amoxicillin and levofloxacin or clarithromycin.

Results : Ninety-four subjects (100%) were resistant to metronidazole, 89 (95%) to clarithromycin, 29 (31%) to levofloxacin and five (5%) to tetracycline. No resistance to amoxicillin was found in any patient. Overall, H. pylori eradication was obtained in 90% of subjects. The quadruple regimen was effective in 81 patients (92% by per protocol and 91% by intention-to-treat analysis). Four patients (80%, both per protocol and intention-to-treat analysis) were H. pylori-negative after the triple regimen.

Conclusions : A culture-guided, third-line therapeutic approach is effective for the eradication of H. pylori. Furthermore, the 1-week doxycycline- and amoxicillin-based quadruple regimen is a good third-line ‘rescue’ treatment option.