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Closing in on an ulcer- and cancer-causing bacterium
Date:12/7/2011

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 7, 2011 A research team led by scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is releasing study results this week showing how a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, that causes more than half of peptic ulcers worldwide and that has been implicated in stomach cancer has managed for eons to turn the acidic environment of the human gut into one in which it can thrive.

Writing in a Journal of Biological Chemistry "Paper of the Week," the scientists say the information they have obtained about the pathogen's clever employment of acid neutralizers may inform those who are designing new drugs to blunt H. pylori's effects across the globe.

H. pylori are the only bacteria known to thrive in the human stomach. It remains unclear how the pathogens are transmitted, although researchers suspect they could be spread through contaminated food or water. The damage the bacteria do to the mucous coating of the gut allows stomach acid to eat away at the sensitive organ lining, causing ulcers.

Although more than half of the world's population has the infection, for reasons still not quite understood most never develop ulcers. In fact, existing antibiotics can cure 80 to 90 percent of ulcers caused by the pathogen. However, H. pylori over the years have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Some experts have attributed that resistance to the fact that doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics to kill it even when patients show no symptoms.

"There is a pressing need to develop new drugs and alternative strategies to fight against H. pylori infection before the prevalence of antibiotic resistance gets out of hand," says Ivan Fong, the lead author on the JBC paper and a graduate student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong whose research is focused on the biochemical makeup of protein complexes that assist in H. pylori's survival.

It's the pathogen's ability to pers
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Contact: Angela Hopp
ahopp@asbmb.org
240-283-6614
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Source:Eurekalert  

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