A new study, just published in the journal Science, shows for the first time that some bacteria that cause diseases in humans use molecular hydrogen as an energy source. The research could point the way toward new treatment regimens for everything from ulcers and chronic gastritis to stomach cancer.
Microbiologists at the University of Georgia worked specifically in mice with the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori, a pathogen that colonizes the mucosal surfaces of the human stomach and gives rise to gastritis, peptic ulcers and sometimes certain types of gastric cancer.
"This was completely unexpected, because most scientists have thought that hydrogen was always lost from the body as a waste product," said Rob Maier, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Ramsey Professor of Microbiology at UGA. "This is the first evidence that hydrogen remains in the body at substantial levels and is an energy source for pathogenic bacteria. Our knowledge that human pathogens can grow on hydrogen while residing in an animal may have profound implications for the treatment of some diseases."
Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
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