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Fusobacterium nucleatum and bowel cancer

UPDATE, 18th October: News came out after I first published this blog post to suggest that there is more of a link between Fusobacterium nucleatum and bowel cancer than was previously though. Although it’s not yet proven this was hinted at in my original post. The BBC and dozens of others reported on the findings this morning. What’s interesting though is that if bowel cancer does turn out to have a bacterial cause in some, if not all, instances, then all that advice about reducing your risk by “not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, being active, reducing the amount of red and processed meat in your diet and eating plenty of fibre,” could actually be irrelevant (even if it is such generic advice that it would have other health benefits).

Fusobacterium nucleatum is an oral pathogen commonly found in the lining of the gut. After a beer and curry-laden night this week and the subsequent digestive, or rather indigestive, symptoms, I was wondering whether I should ask my GP about being tested for this microbial critter. I tested negative for H. pylori, the Nobel-winning microbe associated with stomach ulcers, but we hypochondriasis sufferers have got to keep our physicians busy…

After all, a study earlier this year indicated that colonization of the intestinal mucosa by highly invasive strains of F. nucleatum could be a factor in inflammatory bowel disease. As with the presence of inflammatory infection in stomach ulcers and stomach cancer risk one has to wonder whether there might also be an association between this microbe and more sinister bowel problems.

Research Blogging IconStrauss, J., Kaplan, G., Beck, P., Rioux, K., Panaccione, R., DeVinney, R., Lynch, T., & Allen-Vercoe, E. (2011). Invasive potential of gut mucosa-derived fusobacterium nucleatum positively correlates with IBD status of the host Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 17 (9), 1971-1978 DOI: 10.1002/ibd.21606

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