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Gastric Ulcer Bacteria Turn Immune Defense Inwards

Despite a strong response from our immune defence, the body is unable to rid itself of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. One reason for this is that this bacterium encourages elements of the immune response to remain in tissue, activating the wrong immune cells. Research results that pave the way for a future vaccine are now being published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Approximately half of the world's population are infected with Helicobacter pylori, found primarily in the stomach. The majority never show any symptoms, but just over ten per cent develop gastric ulcers, while around one per cent develop gastric adenocarcinoma. Without antibiotics the body is unable to rid itself of the bacteria.

"Helicobacter pylori inhibits our immune defence, preventing it from attacking the bacteria with sufficient strength, despite an immune response being activated," says biologist Malin Hansson, the author of the thesis.

When an immune response is initiated a specific type of cell migrates to the lymph nodes to activate new immune cells, telling them where they need to go to tackle the infection. Infection with Helicobacter pylori prevents many of these cells from reaching their intended destination.

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