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The urea breath test is used to detect Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that may infect the stomach and is a main cause of ulcers in both the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

H. pylori produces an enzyme called urease, which breaks urea down into ammonia and carbon dioxide. During the test, a tablet containing urea is swallowed and the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide is measured. This indicates the presence of H. pylori in the stomach.