HEALTH

Peptic ulcer bacterium may alter the body’s defense system, study suggests

BY Anna Mcgrath

NEW YORK The discovery that Helicobacter pylori survives in the body by manipulating important immune system cells may lead to a new treatment strategy against the common peptic ulcer bacterium, according to a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy.

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that lives predominantly in the stomach and can lead to peptic ulcers and develop into stomach cancer. About half of the world’s population carries the bacterium, though most infected individuals never experience any symptoms. On average, around 10% get peptic ulcers and around 1% develop stomach cancer.

“Carriers were often infected as children and if not treated with antibiotics, the bacterium remains in the body for life. The immune system alone is unable to eliminate the bacterium, and now we understand better why,” said biologist Bert Kindlund, the author of the thesis from Sahlgrenska Academy.

Regulatory T-cells down-regulate the body’s defence against Helicobacter pylori and enable the bacterium to develop a chronic infection.

“If we could control the regulatory T cells, we could strengthen the immune system and help the body eliminate the bacterium. This could be a new treatment strategy against Helicobacter pylori,” Kindlund continued.

Researchers are hopeful that such information will ultimately help discovery a treatment to stomach cancer.

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