Researchers discovered link between intestinal bacteria and development of colorectal cancer

Research group of professor David Šmajs succeeded to point out a possible role of Escherichia coli bacterium in the development of colorectal cancer.

29 May 2023

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In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers from David Šmajs group succeeded to identify specific types of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium present in the intestines of colorectal cancer patients. These findings indicate previously unknown role of E. coli in the development of colorectal cancer and provide a potential prognostic biomarker of this disease.

E. coli is a bacterium that normally lives in human body and is, in most cases, safe to human health. However, some specific types of E. coli can cause severe diseases ranging from uncomplicated urinary tract infections to life-threatening meningitis. The harmfulness of these pathogenic strains relies on so-called virulence factors. These factors encode specific proteins that interfere with physiological functioning of cells leading to the development of a disease. While it is well known that pathogenic E. coli can directly cause urogenital, diarrheal and other infections, its role in the development of other diseases remains unclear.

In this study, our researchers focused on the possible role of pathogenic E. coli in the development of colorectal cancer. To this end, researchers analyzed the presence of the virulence factors in colorectal biopsies from healthy people and colorectal cancer patients. Researchers identified 4 virulence factors that were more frequently present in cancer patients indicating their possible role in the pathology of the disease. Importantly, one of the virulence factors was present almost exclusively among patients with advanced types of colorectal cancer, and therefore it can potentially serve as a future colorectal cancer biomarker.

Additionally, researchers noticed that same virulence factors were present in subsets of patients with current and previous tumors, indicating that the identified E. coli strains appear to contribute to the development of colorectal cancer.


ORIGINAL PAPER: Bosák et. al., 2023. Escherichia coli from biopsies differ in virulence genes between patients with colorectal neoplasia and healthy controls. Front Microbiol. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2023.1141619.

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