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E. coli 'could hit defences against bowel cancer'

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The body’s ability to fight bowel cancer - the UK’s second biggest cancer killer - could be hampered by a virulent strain of E.coli, research suggests.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh looking at colon cells infected with a strain of the bacteria known as enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC) found the superbug significantly reduced the amount of two key proteins in the body needed to repair damage to DNA.

This occurs because the bacteria locks to colon cells and inserts proteins that appear to inactivate the cells’ repair system.

Previous research has identified that such activity puts the colon cells at greater risk of becoming cancerous.

And looking at tumour samples taken from colon cancer patients, the scientists found that half were infected with E.coli, and half of those tested positive for virulent strains such as EPEC.

The study’s lead author Dr Oliver Maddocks, of the university’s school of molecular and clinical medicine, said the research uncovered a ‘brand new suspect’ in the hunt for possible causes of bowel cancer and hoped the findings would prompt more research into the causes of the disease.

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