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How bacterium that causes food poisoning kills cancer

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor   |   22 February 2017   |   2:12 am  

PHOTO: istockphoto/ Eraxion

The bacteria that cause food poisoning could be used to kill cancer, medical experts said.

A genetically-altered form of salmonella has been developed that will attack tumour cells but leave healthy cells alone.

The bugs are a leading cause of food poisoning yearly. It is the latest example of developments in a new field of cancer treatment called ‘bacteriotherapy’.

Experiments on mice using a modified version of salmonella reduced the size of cancer tumours, the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston heard.

Alterations made to the salmonella bug stopped it attacking and infiltrating into normal healthy cells. Instead it targeted cancer cells.

It was also engineered to create ‘flags’ that are recognised by the immune system, guiding the body’s defence system to target the cancerous tumours.

When injected into the bloodstream of mice with colon cancer, tumours exposed to the bacteria shrunk.

The development, led by Jin Hai Zheng from Chonnam University in South Korea and colleagues, was published in the AAAS journal Science Translational Medicine.

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