Theodicy: humans can treat a bad bug (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, October 15, 2020, 19:25 (666 days ago) @ David Turell
edited by David Turell, Thursday, October 15, 2020, 19:32

H. pylori causes ulcers and even stomach cancer, but we humans found it and know exactly how to eradicate it:

"More than half of the world's population carries the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in their stomach mucosa. It often causes no problems throughout life, but sometimes it can cause inflammation, and in some cases, it can even lead to the development of stomach cancer.

"Helicobacter pylori uses several 'virulence' factors that allow it to survive in the stomach and can lead to the development of disease. In this issue of the journal Molecular Cell, Professor Cynthia Sharma's research team report that multiple of these factors are centrally regulated by a small RNA molecule called NikS.

"Among the target genes regulated by NikS are the two most important virulence factors of Helicobacter pylori as well as two encoding outer membrane proteins. In particular, the JMU researchers were able to show that NikS regulates the CagA protein, a bacterial oncoprotein that plays a central role in the development of cancer instigated by Helicobacter pylori. In addition, a protein with a so far unknown function that is released into the environment by H. pylori is also under the control of NikS.


"The fact that Helicobacter pylori can colonize such a hostile environment as the stomach so successfully is also due to a special genetic strategy: Like other pathogens, H. pylori uses a strategy known as phase variation to adapt as flexibly as possible to changes in its environment. Phase variation means that the bacteria constantly switch expression of a gene at random through genetic mutations, meaning that some bacteria in a population will always be ready to express the important gene when it becomes important—a sort of 'bet-hedging' strategy.

"Sharma's team has now been able to show for the first time that the expression of a small RNA molecule such as NikS, and not just of proteins, can also be subject to phase variation. Depending on the conditions prevailing in the stomach, different amounts of NikS might be beneficial. Levels of the small RNA can change to suit this through phase variation, thereby leading to different regulation of the disease-causing factors."

Comment: The bug is nasty and this article explains how it works, but I can tell, while I was in practice the bug was found as well as how to treat it, which I did. It is interesting that half of us carry it and only a few of us get into trouble from it. Does this mean God designed it and also gave most of us a form of immunity? Very possibly. Is this a challenge? Possibly. We can only guess.

In the meantime this example of human ingenuity is present:

"Generally, metal compounds are used as anti-microbial agents; their antiviral activities have rarely been explored. After screening a series of metallodrugs and related compounds, the research team identified ranitidine bismuth citrate (RBC), a commonly used anti-ulcer drug which contains the metal Bismuth for treatment of Helicobacter pylori-associated infection, as a potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 agent, both in vitro and in vivo."

Think Pepto-Bismol in your bathroom cabinet.

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