More than half of the people in the world host colonies of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori in their stomachs.
Although it’s harmless to many, H. pylori can cause stomach cancer as well as ulcers and other gastric conditions. Doctors tend to prescribe multiple antibiotics to defeat the microbe, but that strategy can lead to antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Now, a finding by UCLA scientists may lead to a better approach. The researchers have determined the molecular structure of a protein that enables H. pylori to stay alive in the stomach, and elucidated the mechanism by which that protein works.
Z. Hong Zhou, the study’s corresponding author and a UCLA professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, said the findings answer questions that have been sought ever since 2005, when two Australian scientists won a Nobel Prize for their discovery of H. pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.