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Scientists reveal E.coli theory

Source PA News

Updated on 13 May 2009

A virulent strain of E.coli could be linked to the second-biggest cancer killer in the UK, according to a new research.

Scientists found a "strong" suggestion that the bacteria is able to hamper the body's fight against bowel cancer.

They now hope the findings from their pilot study will lead to more research into the causes of the disease.

A team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh studied colon cells in the laboratory, which had been infected with a strain of the bacteria known as enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC).

They found that the bacteria significantly reduced the levels of two key proteins needed to repair damage to DNA.

The EPEC bacteria achieved this by attaching to the colon cells and inserting proteins into them which appeared to inactivate the cells' repair system.

It is known that a breakdown of this system puts the colon cells at greater risk of becoming cancerous.

From tissue samples taken from colon cancer patients they found that 50% of the tumour samples were infected with E.coli, and half of those tested positive for virulent strains such as EPEC.

Lead author of the study Dr Oliver Maddocks said: "We can't say for certain that this type of E.coli bacteria definitely cause colon cancer, as it is possible these patients acquired the bug after their tumours developed.

"But our laboratory work does strongly suggest that the bacteria are able to influence colon cells in a way that might predispose them to cancer, and so there is a real chance that infection could aid the development of colon tumours."

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