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Recovery from bowel cancer may be hampered by enteropathogenic E coli (EPEC) bacteria that appear to deactivate DNA repair in humans, according to research at Edinburgh University.
It has found that the bacteria insert their own proteins into colon cells, and that these significantly reduce the levels of two key host proteins needed to repair genetic damage.
Writes study author Dr Oliver Maddocks, of the university’s school of molecular and clinical medicine: “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.”
“We hope our findings stimulate further research to clarify the causes of this common cancer.”
The research found that half of bowl-cancer tumour samples are infected with E coli, and half of those tested positive for virulent strains such as EPEC.
Copyright Press Association 2009