1. The total sialic acid content of human gastric aspirates was measured using a colorimetric assay. Care was taken to optimize the assay and to eliminate interference.

2. The sialic acid content of gastric aspirates collected under resting conditions from 77 patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia was found to decrease with age from >100 μg/ml at 25 years and younger to <20 μg/ml above 70 years of age.

3. Analysis of the sialic acids by gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and thin-layer chromatography showed the presence of N-acetylneuraminic acid and two O-acylated derivatives, 9-O-acetyl- and 9-O-lactyl-N-acetylneuraminic acids. These forms were predominantly glycosidically bound.

4. Thin-layer chromatographic analysis of individual aspirate samples showed that the O-acetylated sialic acids were present in all samples, with a maximum of 25% and a minimum of 5% of the total sialic acids.

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