Study shows how ulcer causing pathogen survives acid

May 24th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 24 (IANS) A new study has found how a pathogen that infects half of humanity and is a key cause of ulcers and cancer survives and thrives in the stomach. The human stomach is an extremely harsh environment, with acidity levels between that of lemon juice and corrosive battery acid. Yet, Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, has always found a home there.

The study, by University of Illinois researchers, reveals that H. pylori — the cause of most gastric and duodenal ulcers, as well as stomach cancer — has evolved a mechanism for surviving acidity and finding a home in the lining of the stomach.

According to Steven Blanke, who led the study, a protein produced by H. pylori, called vacuolating toxin A (VacA), is an important weapon in its arsenal.

“This toxin gets into stomach epithelial cells and immune cells and changes their properties in such a way as to allow H. pylori to first gain a foothold and then survive over the long-term, which may be the entire lifetime of an individual,” Blanke said.

Blanke was assisted in the study by graduate students Vijay Gupta and Hetal Patel who played a key role in ascertaining how H. pylori uses VacA to worm its way into the stomach’s lining.

Findings of the study appear this week in PLoS Pathogens.

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