A2: Microbes in the News

Scientists Turn Food Poisoning Microbe into Powerful Cancer Fighter

Michael Price, 2/8/17, Science Magazine



Summary: Scientists have found a way to modify the bacteria Salmonella in order to trigger an immune response in the body to fight off cancer cells. They tested this by implanting human cancer cells in mice and the bacteria actually shrunk the tumors and prevented the cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body. Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacteria that causes food poisoning. It was genetically modified to secrete the protein known as FlaB. In one experiment, 20 mice were injected with human colon cancer cells and then injected with the bacteria. Three days later, the mice had cleared all of the bacteria from their body except for their colons, which were crawling with Salmonella. After 120 days, the tumors were gone in 11 of the 20 mice.


Connections: This article shows just how important microbes are in our every day life. With all that we have learned about them, we can do so much to manipulate and use them to our advantage.


Critical Analysis: Everything about the fight against cancer fascinates me. It is such a strong disease to have and so much has been done to try and fight it. This article is really interesting to me because it seems like it could really work. However, this study was only done on mice and I really want to know how it would actually affect humans. The author didn’t cover exactly how this bacteria was fighting the cancer cells so I wish they would’ve gone into more depth about that part of it. Overall, this article was easy to read and did a great job at conveying information to the reader.


Question: I would like to know how the Salmonella bacteria could be used to fight cancer cells, but how it doesn’t affect the normal cells of the body? Is it possible for a bacteria to interpret which one is which?