Microbe and human genes influence stomach cancer risk

Strains of Helicobacter pylori that do not evolve along with a population may increase individuals' risk for cancer.

Yutaka Tsutsumi/Wikimedia Commons

The genomes of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and of its human host may determine who develops stomach cancer.

Studying people in two Colombian villages, researchers found that individuals from native populations who carried African strains of H. pylori were much more likely to develop stomach cancer than African descendants carrying an African strain.

The finding, published January 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that when genes of the bacterium and its human host evolve together, the strain is less harmful than that same strain in a person whose ancestors didn’t encounter that particular microbe.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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