Cancer-Causing Gut Bacteria

Mice with inflammatory bowel disease harbor gut bacteria that damage host DNA, predisposing mice to cancer.

By | August 17, 2012

adonofrio" > E.coli in a culture dishFlickr Creative Commons, adonofrio

A usually benign strain of the gut microbe E. coli produces toxins in mice with inflammatory bowel disease, which can lead to DNA-damage and cancer in the host tissue. The results were reported last week in Science  (August 16).

“They're not exactly your flagship disease-causing bacteria,” lead researcher Christian Jobin, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Nature.

Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than the general population. But researchers thought that the main culprit was the over-active immune cells, which released DNA-damaging molecules.  The new work suggests that gut microbes may also contribute to the process, as inflammation appears to change the microbial composition of the gut to favor toxin-producing E. coli strains.

Experts think that the research could lead to methods of reducing the risk of cancer by altering the microbial community, though that strategy has to be tested.

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Avatar of: AlanB


Posts: 16

November 21, 2012

Yes, but there's nothing new about the involvement here of damaging bacteria, or that once the bowel becomes inflammed, it harbours various more toxic strains of bacteria. So inflammation is clearly being triggered by abnormal colonisation and it is a feedback. Also, the article says that a 'normal strain' of E.coli then says a 'toxin producing strain' - these aren't the same thing. A normal, healthy E.coli colony in the right parts of the gut may be essential to health, yet always, wrongly, and dangerosly, it gets described as a cause of disease.  Even its potentially essential roles get ignored, and that could one day prove disasterous for our health, especially as not replacing it can create room for pathogenic strains. There are other bacteria involved in these inflammatory bowel diseases and so something may well be underlying abnormal e.coli distribution in the gut and the types of e.coli settling. Some probiotic E.coli strains may exist and have been reported, they may be needed to stop the bad ones. Its not a 'cancer causing gut bacteria' any more than many others.   

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