Gut Microbes Combine to Cause Colon Cancer, Study Suggests

We’ve known for some time now that our gut is where our immune system resides. Now we also understand that gut microbes combine to cause colon cancer. Dr. Cynthia Sears, an infectious disease specialist, and her colleagues at the Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy had been studying B. fragilis a bacteria that commonly causes diarrhea. They found that when combined with a certain strain of E. coli the bacteria grow into a long, thin film, covering the intestinal lining with colonies of the microbes. These microbes work together and enhance the growth of tumors.

The study, published in the journal Science, explains what has, until now, been a hidden cause of colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the US. This research adds to the evidence that microbes in the gut modify the body’s immune system.

The doctors warn that eliminating the bacteria is easier said than done.

Dr. Jobin, one of Sears’ colleagues, said “You could try to eliminate the bugs, but…” he continued, “Antibiotics will probably do more damage than good.”

Antibiotics kill a wide variety of bacteria in the gut many of which are needed for good health.

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