Researchers in Italy have found strong evidence that the gastric enzyme pepsin is a reliable marker for the diagnosis of reflux disease, especially in patients with persistent respiratory symptoms.

In the study Bronchial reacutization and gastroesophageal reflux: is there a potential clinical correlation? researchers used Peptest to identify the cause of irritation of the airways in patients.

Peptest is a diagnostic device developed for rapidly and non-invasively diagnosing the presence of reflux disease. Pepsin is a protease originating from pepsinogen secreted into gastric juice from chief cells and is only found in the stomach.

The clinical study recruited 42 patients with a history of chronic cough, dyspnoea (laboured or heavy breathing) and an abnormal lung examination. There was no known history of GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).

All patients underwent a diagnostic bronchoscopy and bronchial secretions were collected for analysing for the presence of pepsin using Peptest.

Pepsin was positive in 88 per cent of samples. The presence of pepsin in the airways indicates reflux because it cannot be present in the airways if not through micro aspiration of gastric contents.

Researchers concluded that Peptest is a “straightforward and reliable test” that could “confirm the cause of possible irritation of the airways and may prevent further diagnostic tests, such as an upper endoscopy EGD or pH oesophageal monitoring.”

Professor Peter Dettmar, who developed Peptest, said: “This study provides strong evidence for the gastric enzyme pepsin being a reliable marker for the diagnosis of reflux disease especially in patients with persistent respiratory symptoms.”

“The introduction of Peptest may prevent the introduction of further invasive diagnostic tests saving both costs and time to healthcare authorities across Europe and importantly providing a safer more compliant test for patients”