Salmonella, the common food poisoning bug, can help fight cancer, according to scientists.
The bacteria can infiltrate tumours and allow the body’s immune system to target cancer cells.
Cancers are often left alone by the immune system because they are not seen as “foreign” to the body.
A strain of the bug has been engineered by researchers in South Korea and is a million times less potent than the version of the bug that causes food poisoning.
Animal tests have proven successful thus far and in mice with bowel cancer, more than half the creatures were cured without side effects.
The study was carried out at Chonnam National University Hwasun Hospital in Jeonnam, South Korea.
Professor Joon Haeng Rhee from the University said: “We believe that this was turning tumour-helping immune cells, Dr Jekyll, into tumour-killing ones, Mr Hyde.”
This is the first time scientists have used the body’s response to salmonella to fight cancer.
The discovery was made from an unrelated study when it was uncovered that bacteria attacking shellfish produced a protein that triggers a strong immune response.
The modified salmonella releases the same protein to spur the immune system into action.
Professor Kevin Harrington, from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “It has been known for some time that certain types of bacteria, including strains of salmonella, are able to grow in tumours but not in normal tissues.
“However, until now, attempts to use bacteria as anti-cancer therapies have had limited success, both in the laboratory and in the clinic.”
Press Association contributed to this report
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