SEP 01, 2022 7:25 AM PDT

A Common Bacterial Infection Could Lead to Colon Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Zoe Michaud

Infections of the bacterium C. difficile can cause diarrhea and inflammation of the colon called colitis. It is estimated that around half a million infections of C. diff occur every year in the United States. Most C. diff infections occur while an individual is taking antibiotics or just after taking antibiotics. 

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, old age, weakened immune system, having other illnesses, and being in a hospital or a long-term care facility are all risk factors for a C. difficile infection. Those with inflammatory bowel disease are both more likely to develop a C. difficile infection and to develop of severe infection.

A new study published in Cancer Discovery indicates that the impact of a C. difficile infection may be more complex than previously thought and may increase the risk of developing colon cancer. The researchers used epithelial progenitor cells from the colon and exposed them to C. difficile. They found that the cells underwent complex changes consistent with the development of colon cancer. 

The colon cells exposed to C. difficile underwent changes to Wnt/β-catenin signaling, ROS production, and a procarcinogenic mucosal immune response. The researchers stress the need for future work to identify the effect of C. difficile colonization on immune reactions and the resulting risk of developing tumors. 

Study co-author Julia Drewes, Ph.D., says that “while this link between C. difficile and colorectal cancer needs to be confirmed in prospective, longitudinal cohorts, developing better strategies and therapeutics to reduce the risk of C. difficile primary infection and recurrence could both spare patients the immediate consequences of severe diarrhea and potentially limit colorectal cancer risk later on.” 

Since C. difficile infections are often detected in clinical settings, such as after a prescribed regimen of antibiotics, the researchers hope that whether or not a patient has had a C. difficile infection could influence future medical decisions. If future research confirms that C. difficile infection is a risk factor for developing colon cancer, those with a past infection could be offered more rigorous screening for colon cancer. 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American College of Gastroenterology, Cell Discovery, Johns Hopkins Medicine

About the Author
Biology
Zoe (she/her) is a science writer and a scientist working in genomics. She received her B.S. from the University of Connecticut with a focus in Evolutionary Biology. At Labroots, she focuses on writing scientific content related to clinical research and diagnostics.
You May Also Like
SEP 27, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
New Research Elucidates the Mechanism of Skin Cancer Metastasis to the Brain and Points to Groundbreaking Treatment
SEP 27, 2022
New Research Elucidates the Mechanism of Skin Cancer Metastasis to the Brain and Points to Groundbreaking Treatment
In advanced stages of skin cancer, patients develop brain metastases about 90% of the time. Though this is one of the mo ...
OCT 05, 2022
Health & Medicine
Emergency Contraception Pills are Significantly Less Effective in People Who Are Overweight
OCT 05, 2022
Emergency Contraception Pills are Significantly Less Effective in People Who Are Overweight
Emergency contraception pills can be used to prevent pregnancy within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. When taken as ...
SEP 28, 2022
Health & Medicine
Drinking Tea Shown to Reduce Diabetes
SEP 28, 2022
Drinking Tea Shown to Reduce Diabetes
Researchers have discovered that drinking at least four cups of tea per day is associated with a 17% lower risk of type ...
OCT 25, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Certain Air Pollutants Linked to Worse Outcomes in Interstitial Lung Disease
OCT 25, 2022
Certain Air Pollutants Linked to Worse Outcomes in Interstitial Lung Disease
Fibrotic interstitial lung disease (fILD) is a frustratingly difficult disease to characterize. For one, fiLD is difficu ...
NOV 09, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Newly-Discovered Biomarker Could Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease Early
NOV 09, 2022
Newly-Discovered Biomarker Could Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease Early
Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to definitively diagnose. Instead, clinicians rely on behavioral tests that are o ...
NOV 28, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Study Indicates that Breast Cancer Recurrence Could be Predicted Using a MicroRNA Biomarker
NOV 28, 2022
Study Indicates that Breast Cancer Recurrence Could be Predicted Using a MicroRNA Biomarker
MicroRNAs are small (between just 21 and 23 nucleotides), non-coding RNA molecules. They are involved in the post-transc ...
Loading Comments...