Salmonella, common bacteria found in chicken and eggs may actually be able to make a positive contribution to the medical field. Researchers in Germany have discovered that Salmonella can actually work its way through solid tumors and actually destroy them. The findings have been published in the medical publication Public Library of Science ONE.
According to scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Brunswick, Germany, the bacterium carries a substance called tumor necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-alpha. Once the blood vessels in the area of the disease become permeable the blood is able to flow from the vessels into the malignant tissues and ultimately kills the tumor.
Once Salmonella is recognized by the immune cells it sets off the TNF-alpha which in turn causes the immune cells to jump into action. The blood vessels become more permeable making it easier to reach and target the solid tumors that have until now been hard or even impossible to reach. It has been shown that it takes a very small amount of TNF-alpha to dissolve the walls of the blood vessels to provide access to the tumors.
The discovery of the benefits of Salmonellas is a major breakthrough in the medical field and based on the results of the study, researchers are hoping to modify the bacteria so that they can use it in tumor therapy. The bacteria are able to reach areas of the body that until now were unreachable. Chemotherapy is not an option in treating a tumor if there is no blood flow but the activation of TNF-alpha opens up a whole new area for treatments.
The use of bacteria in medicine is not new but using it to treat patients, especially high risk patients, has not been an option until now. In the past researchers were afraid that the patients could contract an infection from the bacteria and die from that rather than the tumor that they were being treated for.
The testing of the Salmonella was done on laboratory mice and researchers say it may take years before they can try to administer the same type of testing on humans. The threat and real possibility of a patient who already is suffering from a compromised immune system catching a serious bacterial infection from the direct administration of the bacteria is something that researchers are working on.
The fact that the bacteria was able to break through to the tumor is a real breakthrough in treating solid tumors. Now the research teams are going to focus on harnessing this power and brining it to a controllable level where it can start working for humans.
European research teams are confident that they will be able to manipulate the bacteria without causing deadly infections in patients undergoing cancer treatment within a few years. It will certainly put an end to some forms of inoperable tumors and give a new positive prognosis where there once was none.