SEP 12, 2018 4:22 PM PDT

Researchers ID a Link Between a Bacterial Strain and Gastric Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. Those ulcers cause chronic inflammation and damage in tissue in the stomach, which increases the risk of gastric cancer. Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Zhengzhou University have now identified one strain of that microbe that has a strong connection to cancer. The researchers are hopeful that this work will help improve diagnostic tests and therapeutic strategies; their findings have been reported in PLOS One.

Scanning electron micrograph of Helicobacter bacteria / Credit: CDC/Dr. Patricia Fields, Dr. Collette Fitzgerald

"We've known the H. pylori bacterium has a strong correlation to stomach cancer, but it's been difficult to pinpoint why certain patients, especially in areas like Northeast Asia, are more susceptible to stomach cancer," explained the senior author of the study, Dr. Nina Salama, a member of Fred Hutch's Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions. "While it's preliminary in nature, these results could be the first step towards identifying the highest risk groups and improving screening and treatment plans."

Patients at Henan Cancer Hospital in Henan, China were recruited for this study, including 24 without cancer and 25 with gastric cancer. Stool and stomach endoscopy samples from these individuals allowed the researchers at Fred Hutch to assess a gene in the H. pylori genome. Specifically, they evaluated the EPIYA D variant of the cagA gene. They found that 91 percent of the cancer patients carried an H. pylori strain with the EPIYA D variant.

Related: Ulcer Causing Microbe Found to Disrupt Mitochondria

H. pylori like to take up residence in the mucosal layer of the human stomach. It’s a common microbe, and over 50 percent of our planet’s population is thought to carry it. Considering that, it's no surprise that the World Health Organization (WHO) identified stomach cancer as the sixth most common type and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in 2018.

"Unfortunately, infections like H. pylori directly or indirectly cause up to 20 percent of cancers worldwide," noted Salama. "But knowing the cause gives us a clear target to develop vaccines for prevention or tools to better recognize risk."

There are caveats to this study, given the small sample size. But the teams at Fred Hutch and Zhengzhou University are hoping to do similar research in the future with a larger group of patients.

In the video from the New England Journal of Medicine, learn more about research on the connection between H. pylori and gastric cancer.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, WHOPLOS One

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 28, 2020
Microbiology
As Buildings Reopen After Lockdowns, They Find Legionella
AUG 28, 2020
As Buildings Reopen After Lockdowns, They Find Legionella
Several schools and even buildings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified Legionella ba ...
OCT 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
OCT 12, 2020
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
Mosquitoes can transmit the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite to humans. Malaria was estimated to have caused the deat ...
OCT 19, 2020
Microbiology
Microbes in Cheese Use Those Funky Smells to Communicate
OCT 19, 2020
Microbes in Cheese Use Those Funky Smells to Communicate
Cheese is made with microbes, and some of it has a very distinct smell. Scientists have now found that those smells actu ...
OCT 26, 2020
Microbiology
A Network of Fungi Helps Trees Grow
OCT 26, 2020
A Network of Fungi Helps Trees Grow
Trees rely on a network of fungal friends for good health. Communities of trees can share nutrients and other essentail ...
NOV 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Vibrations in Coronavirus Proteins Help Them Infect Cells
NOV 23, 2020
Vibrations in Coronavirus Proteins Help Them Infect Cells
If a key isn't cut quite right, it might need a special jiggle to get it into a lock in the right way. Scientists have n ...
NOV 30, 2020
Plants & Animals
How to Help Plants Thrive While Reducing Fertilizer Use
NOV 30, 2020
How to Help Plants Thrive While Reducing Fertilizer Use
Soil helps provide plants with some of the nutrients they need, like phosphorous. Fertilizers may include phosphorous, w ...
Loading Comments...