Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have developed a new large animal model to study how the immune system interacts with the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease.
The discovery in the October edition of the journal Infection and Immunity may inform changes in the ways doctors treat patients. An estimated 4 million Americans have sores in the stomach lining known as peptic ulcers, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.
Although the bacterium is found in more than half the world’s population, most people do not develop diseases. However, some experience chronic inflammation of the stomach, or gastritis, which can lead to the development of ulcers or cancer.
In addition to its role as a pathogen, the bacteria have beneficial effects, preventing certain chronic inflammatory and metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
When bacteria reside within host cells, the immune system typically recruits a type of white blood cell called T cells — in this case, CD8+ cytotoxic T cells — to destroy the infected cells.