'Salmonella' could cure cancer

Salmonella

Scientists claim to have found evidence that Salmonella, the bacteria known for causing food poisoning, could cure cancer.

A team at Glasgow University has found how a protein in the bacteria manipulates what happens in the body's cells, causing them to die off -- and this ability could be directed to kill cancerous cells, potentially curing the disease.

In future, it is hoped that special forms of salmonella could be injected into patients to destroy their cancer, before they are treated with antibiotics to rid them of any remaining bacteria, say the scientists.

Dr Donal Wall, who led the study, said the team had discovered how salmonella uses an enzyme, known as caspase-3, to spread inflammation in the body. A protein in the bacteria called SipA causes the enzyme to proliferate, prompting cell death, 'The Scotsman' reported.

The scientists hope this process could be amplified and directed at cancerous cells, with the bacteria effectively killing the tumours.

Wall said: "In order to infect, the bacteria use a lot of different proteins which they inject into the host cells. What we have discovered is that the bacteria are managing to use one of the host cell's enzymes to help them. The enzyme is taking the bacterial proteins and cutting them up, inadvertently helping the bacteria making these proteins a lot more effective during infection."

Wall said this process was in itself interesting in the study of how diseases develop. "But what is really interesting is that the enzyme it is using is very important in the process of cell death. He said: "This is often defective in diseases like cancer, so we think, if we can harness this ability the bacteria have to encourage cell death then we may be able to use this ability for the treatment of cancer. We believe if we can take this and bring it further then we can possibly create a strain of salmonella that will be a lot more effective when it gets to the tumour site."

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