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A new study identifies oral bacteria that can cause colon cancer

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Spanish researchers have found a bacteria that can travel from the mouth to the colon. It may be one of the factors behind colon cancer.

The role of bacteria in the human body can be protective or aggressive, even to the point of being linked to colon cancer. More and more studies show the leading role of microbiota in our health. New studies have also shown that oral bacteria can contribute to colon cancer.

The microbiota is a group of microorganisms that coexist with humans, sometimes in balance, sometimes not as balanced.

Scientists have today found microorganisms that are typical for different organs. In other words, just because they’re there doesn’t mean you’re sick or will develop cancer. But there are also other types of bacteria that can occur in places where they shouldn’t.

A new study shows that a bacteria found at the site of colon cancer actually belongs in the mouth. Could this be a cause of the disease?

The Spanish study

The results from the Institute for Biomedical Research in A Coruña have been published on the Research Square platform. The research shows that a bacterium from the mouth also lives in the microenvironment around colon cancer in some patients.

After analyzing many different samples, the researchers were able to identify Parvimonas Micra in intestinal tumors. This microorganism has previously been detected in the saliva and specifically in the gums of people with periodontitis.

When analyzed to compare the genetic information of oral bacteria with the bacteria in the area of ​​colon cancer, a similarity of 99.2% was found. This shows that bacterial colonies from the mouth can migrate to the large intestine, settle there and multiply.

The definitive data linking P. Micra to the oncological process is that healthy people do not have this bacterium present in the colon. In addition, the microorganism is metabolically more active when it is found among malignant cells than if it is found in healthy tissues.

Oral bacteria that can cause colon cancer: An old and new acquaintance

Parvimonas Micra is not an unknown bacterium in the medical world. This gram-positive anaerobic coccus has for many years been listed as one of those found in periodontitis. Many of its actions have been recognized in dentistry.

In rare cases, the bacterium has been associated with septic arthritis, linked with brain abscesses, and also with endocarditis. In fact, it was only in 2015 that its presence in infected heart tissue was documented for the first time.

A characteristic of this bacterium is that it can join with different bacteria to form clusters, biofilms, and collaborative aggregations. This is what it does in periodontitis, and it can also do it in colon cancer.

Scientists suspect that it does not make the journey from the mouth to the gut all on its own. Instead, it uses the binding ability to move in groups to distant areas of the human body where it can create a favorable microclimate and form new colonies.

P. Micra colonies produce various substances through their metabolism. The mere fact that they develop causes them to secrete molecules that can be harmful or toxic to the host organism .

Not only oral bacteria can cause colon cancer

It would be very simplistic to say that a bacterium is the origin of colon cancer. Scientists know that there are several factors that can trigger a neoplasm.

The microbiota is just another element in a complex web of circumstances, characteristics, and situations that lead to the formation of a tumor. Diet, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and genetic inheritance are also risk factors for colorectal cancer.

One hypothesis is that bacteria from the mouth succeed in reproducing in the gut when they encounter reduced defenses. This can be due to stress or poor diet.

Once a colony of P. Micra is established, it becomes difficult to eradicate. In combination with other microorganisms, it can manufacture a real defensive fortress to prevent the human immune system from detecting and eliminating it.

Bacteria are not a direct cause of cancer, but they can worsen the prognosis

There are other bacteria that have been found in colorectal cancer tissues. One of them is Fusobacterium nucleatum .

This is linked to a worse prognosis. This means that patients who carry it in the malignant tissue tend to live shorter lives and respond less well to treatments. Similarly, it may be involved in the formation of metastases.

In other words, a bacterium by itself cannot promote colon cancer, but only be a negative prognostic factor. Although more data are needed to clarify the situation, it seems not unlikely that bacterial clusters contribute to a more aggressive and intractable disease.

What is the significance of this discovery?

Early diagnosis of neoplasms is a must for public health. The availability of accurate, early, and specific methods to detect whether a person has cancer helps to increase the effectiveness of treatment.

For Marga Poza, bacteria are possible biomarkers for colorectal cancer:

The development of a laboratory or outpatient test to verify the presence of P. Micra in the intestine could open the possibility to start a thorough screening in these patients. Hopefully, one would then be able to find a tumor at an early stage in order to successfully remove it. This in turn would lead to fewer side effects, and the person would be able to return to living a healthy life.

We all live in interaction with bacteria, most of which are harmless; but some of them can really be a sign of imbalance in the body. They are there and can tell us important things about our health. That is why researchers continue to research in this area.

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