Making stomach microbes less sticky may reduce ulcers

Helicobacter pylori infections are the cause of most stomach and small intestine ulcers. Now scientists have identified the protein that acts as a glue, allowing the bacterium to stick to the stomach lining. (Credit: AJ Cann/Flickr)

A bacteria’s ability to stick to the lining of the stomach and gut can lead to a number of gastric ailments, including ulcers and cancer.

Scientists have long had an interest in how the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, causes ulcers, and more rarely, gastric cancer. Now, researchers have pinpointed the part of the protein SabA that is important for its stickiness. SabA effectively acts as glue, sticking the bacteria to the stomach lining.


“SabA is a type of protein known as an adhesin. As the name suggests, adhesins stick the bacteria to the cells lining the stomach. If we can stop SabA from working properly, then we may have a new approach for treating a range of different gastric diseases,” says James Whisstock, professor in Monash University’s biochemistry and molecular biology department.

The researchers pinpointed the part of SabA that is important for its stickiness, and they are now working to develop specific drugs that stop the protein from working properly.

Terry Kwok, who helped lead the study, says Helicobacter pylori infections are the cause of most stomach and small intestine ulcers. The research was conducted at the Australian Synchrotron and recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“Chronic Helicobacter pylori infection is an important problem with re-occurring infections particularly difficult to treat, so there is great interest in developing new and specific drugs in this area,” says Terry Kwok.

The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia supported the study.

Source: Monash University