Enabling Helicobacter pylori eradication by the innate immune system
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is one of the most widespread bacterial infections, estimated to have infected over half of the global population. There is a very high prevalence (level) of infection in the developing world and in populations of Indigenous Australians. Long-term infection with H. pylori significantly increases the risk for the development of gastric (stomach) cancer. H. Pylori is now considered to be the underlying cause of 5.5% of all cancer in humans. H. pylori infects the inner surface of the stomach, known as the gastric mucosa. This causes chronic inflammation (swelling and irritation), but despite eliciting a strong immune response, H. pylori persists in the individual for a lifetime.
In order to clear an infection from the body, phagocytosis takes place; a process whereby an immune cell removes the harmful bacteria. In our laboratory we have demonstrated that H. pylori is able to avoid this immune response, enabling it to survive longer. This has important significance for the onset of the chronic disease process that results in atrophic gastritis (a condition that destroys the cells lining the stomach), ulcer development and gastric cancer.
What we aim to achieve
The project could lead to the identification of a potential therapeutic target (drug) to stop the development of the disease caused by H. pylori. This would have enormous implications for gastric cancer and globally 5.5% of all cancer patients.
Our next steps and milestones
The next step in this project would be to identify how H. pylori changes the phagosome molecular machinery to enable it to survive inside cells of the host immune system.
What motivates me
I’m motivated to undertake cancer research because of the opportunity through my work to develop innovative scientific solutions to complex biological problems, coupled with the capacity to make a positive difference for patients and their families.
My message to supporters
Projects like this require significant financial input, particularly at this early stage, which makes the funding from Cancer Council SA essential. The continued support from Cancer Council SA will allow researchers to translate their novel findings into new methods for cancer diagnosis and treatment.