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Monday 24th October 2016

Rogue bacterium blamed for triggering cancer

22nd September 2008

A common bacterium may trigger cancer by damaging DNA in gut cell walls, research has shown.

Enterococcus Faecalis is one of the  myriad bugs that inhabit the intestines. Most of these bacteria are harmless and are mainly beneficial to health.

But the new study suggests that E. Faecalis has a dark side.

When its metabolism operates in a certain way, the bug releases a potentially dangerous by-product. Destructive oxygen molecules produced by E. Faecalis damage DNA and alter the way cells grow and divide, according to the research published in the journal Medical Biology.

Laboratory tests showed that the "superoxide" free radicals affected 42 genes in cells lining the gut wall.

Study leader, Professor Mark Huycke, from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in Oklahoma City, US, said: "Our findings are among the first to explore mechanisms by which normal gut bacteria damage DNA and alter gene regulation in the colon which might lead to cancer."

The research puts into perspective the complexity of the effects normal gut bacteria can have on the health of an individual.

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