13 October 2016
Researchers have identified a key function of a common gut bacterium that could pave the way for new treatments for gastric cancer.
Conducted by the University of Georgia, the research showed that Helicobacter pylori, a common stomach-dwelling bacterium, can use hydrogen gas present in the gastrointestinal tract to inject a cancer-causing toxin into otherwise healthy cells.
More than half of people have H. pylori in their gut, with recent studies indicating that this bacterium causes 90 per cent of all gastric cancers.
Corresponding author Robert Maier of the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences said: "The implications of the study are that if we can alter a person's microflora, the bacterial makeup of their gut, we can put bacteria in there that don't produce hydrogen, or put in an extra dose of harmless bacteria that use hydrogen."
This, he said, would result in the amount of hydrogen being depleted for H. pylori to use, starving the bacteria of sustenance and resulting in fewer cases of cancer.
Changing the microbial makeup of the gut in the manner could be complex, but numerous methods of doing so are currently being explored, including through the use of probiotics, antibiotics, nutritional regimes and faecal transplants.
Posted by Edward Bartel
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