Gastric Ulcer Bacteria Turn Immune Defense Inward

Article

Despite a strong response from our immune defense, the body is unable to rid itself of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. One reason for this is that this bacterium encourages elements of the immune response to remain in tissue, activating the wrong immune cells. Research results that pave the way for a future vaccine are now being published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Approximately half of the world's population are infected with Helicobacter pylori, found primarily in the stomach. The majority never show any symptoms, but just over 10 percent develop gastric ulcers, while around 1 percent develop gastric adenocarcinoma. Without antibiotics the body is unable to rid itself of the bacteria.

"Helicobacter pylori inhibits our immune defense, preventing it from attacking the bacteria with sufficient strength, despite an immune response being activated," says biologist Malin Hansson, the author of the thesis.

When an immune response is initiated a specific type of cell migrates to the lymph nodes to activate new immune cells, telling them where they need to go to tackle the infection. Infection with Helicobacter pylori prevents many of these cells from reaching their intended destination.

"Helicobacter pylori causes immune cells to accumulate in tissue. Many of the cells that ought to collect more new immune cells stop at these accumulations and begin activating these instead, leading to chronic inflammation, which we believe benefits Helicobacter pylori," says Malin Hansson.

This thesis also paves the way for a future vaccine against gastric adenocarcinoma. Previous research has shown that many infected patients with gastric adenocarcinoma have low levels of a specific type of antibody in tissue, even though Helicobacter pylori normally causes unusually high levels of antibodies. These antibodies should therefore be able to protect against this form of cancer. For the first time in samples taken from humans Malin Hansson has been able to show that these antibodies are attracted to tissue by a signal substance called MEC.

"If these antibodies really can protect against development of gastric adenocarcinoma, it would be possible to develop a vaccine that increases MEC expression and thus the number of antibodies present in tissue," says Malin.

Related Videos
Andrea Flinchum, 2024 president of the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc (CBIC) explains the AL-CIP Certification at APIC24
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology  (Image credit: APIC)
Lila Price, CRCST, CER, CHL, the interim manager for HealthTrust Workforce Solutions; and Dannie O. Smith III, BSc, CSPDT, CRCST, CHL, CIS, CER, founder of Surgicaltrey, LLC, and a central processing educator for Valley Health System
Jill Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, CRCST, NREMT, CHL
Jill Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, CRCSR, NREMT, CHL, and Katie Belski, BSHCA, CRCST, CHL, CIS
Baby visiting a pediatric facility  (Adobe Stock 448959249 by Rawpixel.com)
Antimicrobial Resistance (Adobe Stock unknown)
Anne Meneghetti, MD, speaking with Infection Control Today
Patient Safety: Infection Control Today's Trending Topic for March
Related Content