New pathogen from pigs' stomach ulcers

June 9, 2008

Scientists have isolated a new bacterium in pigs' stomachs thanks to a pioneering technique, offering hope of new treatments to people who suffer with stomach ulcers, according to research published in the June issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The bacterium that commonly causes stomach ulcers in humans is called Helicobacter pylori. Extensive research has been carried out on this bacterium and the two scientists who discovered it were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2005.

However, in a small percentage of biopsies a similar but previously unidentified bacterium is present. Numerous research papers have described failed attempts to culture this microbe in the laboratory since it was first observed in 1990. Now, scientists from Belgium have succeeded.

"We have developed a new method to cultivate these bacteria and can now study their main characteristics and virulence properties," said Professor Dr Freddy Haesebrouck from Gent University in Belgium. The researchers had to recreate aspects of the bacterium's natural habitat, the stomach. They used acid, which kills other microbes but is needed for these bacteria to grow. Charcoal was used to remove substances that are toxic to the stomach bacterium. Genetic analysis revealed that it is a new species related to the common stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Its name, Helicobacter suis, comes from the Latin for "of the pig".

H. suis has been associated with stomach ulcers in pigs, which may cause sudden death: a big problem for farmers. "The economic losses for the pork industry and the risk of the bacteria infecting humans justify the need for further research," said Dr Margo Baele from Gent University in Belgium. "Data shows that people in close contact with pigs have a higher risk of infection; this suggests H. suis is a zoonotic agent, capable of being transmitted from animals to humans."

"We know very little about how the bacterium infects humans and pigs and how it causes disease. Thanks to this research, pure isolates of H. suis are now available, bringing new perspectives to the study of this organism and its interaction with the host," says Professor Dr Freddy Haesebrouck.

The new technique will allow researchers to determine whether the bacterium is resistant to antibiotics. This will lead to better treatment strategies, both in pigs and humans. The researchers hope it may also result in the development of an effective vaccine.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Researchers develop model to study immune response to infections that cause peptic ulcers

Related Stories

Why can't we stop cholera in Haiti?

July 7, 2015

In early February, when Jenniflore Abelard arrived at her parents' house high in the hills of Port-au-Prince, her father Johnson (names have been changed) was home. He was lying in the yard, under a tree, vomiting. When Jenniflore ...

Researchers begin trial of Shigella vaccine candidates

February 20, 2013

Researchers have launched an early-stage human clinical trial of two related candidate vaccines to prevent infection with Shigella, bacteria that are a significant cause of diarrheal illness, particularly among children. ...

Recommended for you

When words, structured data are placed on single canvas

October 22, 2017

If "ugh" is your favorite word to describe entering, amending and correcting data on the rows and columns on spreadsheets you are not alone. Coda, a new name in the document business, feels it's time for a change. This is ...

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

October 22, 2017

Until recently, glaciers in the United States have been measured in two ways: placing stakes in the snow, as federal scientists have done each year since 1957 at South Cascade Glacier in Washington state; or tracking glacier ...

Dawn mission extended at Ceres

October 20, 2017

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before ...

Metacognition training boosts gen chem exam scores

October 20, 2017

It's a lesson in scholastic humility: You waltz into an exam, confident that you've got a good enough grip on the class material to swing an 80 percent or so, maybe a 90 if some of the questions go your way.

Carbon coating gives biochar its garden-greening power

October 20, 2017

For more than 100 years, biochar, a carbon-rich, charcoal-like substance made from oxygen-deprived plant or other organic matter, has both delighted and puzzled scientists. As a soil additive, biochar can store carbon and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.