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Helicobacter pylori - a seasoned pathogen by any other name

Author(s): Ahmed Niyaz | Tenguria Shivendra | Nandanwar Nishant

Journal: Gut Pathogens
ISSN 1757-4749

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 24;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Helicobacter pylori is a well known inhabitant of human stomach which is linked to peptic ulcer disease and gastric adenocarcinoma. It was recently shown in several studies that H. pylori can be harnessed as a surrogate marker of human migration and that its population structure and stratification patterns exactly juxtapose to those of Homo sapiens. This is enough a testimony to convey that H. pylori may have coevolved with their host. Several protective effects of H. pylori colonization have been considered as evidence of a presumed symbiotic relationship. Contrary to this assumption is the presence of a strong virulence apparatus within H. pylori; why a co-evolved parasite would try inflicting its host with serious infection and even causing cancer? The answer is perhaps embedded in the evolutionary history of both the bacterium and the host. We discuss a hypothetical scenario wherein H. pylori may have acquired virulence genes from donors within its environment that varied with change in human history and ecology. The H. pylori genomes sequenced to date portray fairly high abundance of such laterally acquired genes which have no assigned functions but could be linked to inflammatory responses or other pathogenic attributes. Therefore, the powerful virulence properties and survival strategies of Helicobacter make it a seasoned pathogen; thus the efforts to portray it as a commensal or a (harmless) 'bacterial parasite' need rethinking.
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