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Some bacteria may protect against disease caused by stomach infection
Date:3/12/2013

Half of the world's human population is infected with the stomach bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, yet it causes disease in only about 10 percent of those infected. Other bacteria living in the stomach may be a key factor in whether or not H. pylori causes disease, according to a new study led by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"People tend to think of the stomach as a relatively sterile environment, but it's actually populated with microbes," said Karen Ottemann, professor and chair of microbiology and environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.

Researchers in Ottemann's lab were studying H. pylori infections in mice when they noticed that mice from two different suppliers had different responses to the infection, even though they were the same mouse strain and therefore genetically identical. Examining the bacteria in the stomachs of the mice (the stomach "microflora"), they found differences between the mice from different suppliers. They then used antibiotics to alter the stomach microflora in mice from a single supplier and again found changes in the response to H. pylori.

"We found that something about the preexisting microflora, before H. pylori comes into the mouse, changes the mouse's response to the infection," Ottemann said.

The findings, published in the journal Infection and Immunity, have potential implications for treating human infections. The bacteria in the stomachs of mice and humans are broadly the same--not necessarily at the species level, but the same types of bacteria are present in both, Ottemann said.

H. pylori infections can cause ulcers and stomach cancer, but most infected people don't develop any disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that H. pylori infection can protect against diseases such as esophageal cancer and asthma. For these reasons, people are only treated for the infection if they develop
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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

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