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Dietary component kills bacterial cause of ulcers and stomach cancer

*This release has been updated on May 22 at 1:00PM.*

A bacterium responsible for the vast majority of stomach cancers, a leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and ulcers may have met its match, scientists from Johns Hopkins and the French National Scientific Research Center report in the May 28 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team discovered that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts, kills the bacterium in laboratory studies. The findings should lead quickly to clinical trials to see whether dietary intake of vegetables containing sulforaphane can relieve infection, the researchers say.

In all but 15 to 20 percent of cases, combinations of powerful antibiotics can kill helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that was recognized 20 years ago as the cause of debilitating stomach ulcers and often fatal stomach cancers. Unfortunately, the regions of the world where the infection is most common are the same places where using antibiotics is most economically and logistically difficult.

"In some parts of Central and South America, Africa and Asia, as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of the population is infected with helicobacter, likely linked to poverty and conditions of poor sanitation," says study leader Jed Fahey, a plant physiologist in the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "If future clinical studies show that a food can relieve or prevent diseases associated with this bacterium in people, it could have significant public health implications in the United States and around the world."

In their laboratory experiments, the scientists discovered that purified sulforaphane even killed helicobacter that was resistant to commonly used antibiotics. They also proved that sulforaphane can kill the bacterium whether it's inside or outside cells. In people, cells lining the stomach can act as reservoirs of helicob
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Contact: Joanna Downer
jdowner1@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
27-May-2002


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