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New Approach to Stifle Stomach Bug

Modulating stomach chemical may enhance immunity to cancer-associated bug

September 3, 2010 | Leigh MacMillan

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori infects about half of the world’s population. It induces immune responses, but these responses do not eliminate the bug. H. pylori persists in the human stomach for decades, leading to chronic inflammation, peptic ulcers, lymphoma and stomach cancer.
Helicobacter pylori
Keith Wilson, M.D., and colleagues are exploring the failure of the immune response against H. pylori. They previously showed that H. pylori induces the production of the microbe-killing chemical nitric oxide by macrophages, but not enough to eliminate the bug.

They now report in the journal Gastroenterology that chemicals called polyamines – also produced by macrophages – limit the production (and therefore killing power) of nitric oxide. Treatment of H. pylori-infected mice with an inhibitor of polyamine production increased nitric oxide synthesis and reduced both H. pylori colonization levels and the severity of stomach inflammation.

The findings suggest that modulation of polyamine generation in the stomach may be a novel approach for enhancing immunity to H. pylori.

For other research highlights from Vanderbilt University Medical Center laboratories, see ‘Aliquots‘ in the VUMC Reporter.