Salmonella, the bacteria behind food poisoning, has been genetically modified to kill cancer cells.
The process was announced in a study in mBio, an American Society for Microbiology journal.
“There has long been interest in using genetically engineered microbes to target and destroy cells within solid tumours,” says researcher Professor Roy Curtiss of Arizona State University.
“I think this study goes a significant way in developing some strategies that will help in the overall means of using Salmonella as part of a cancer therapy.”
Researchers have known for years that certain strains of bacteria, including Salmonella enterica, can kill cancer cells.
However, in order to use Salmonella as a weapon against cancer in humans, researchers must find a balance between allowing it to kill the cancer and be safe for the patient.
In the latest study, the researchers focused on modifying the structure of the Salmonella strain to make the bug less toxic.
According to Curtiss, the therapy would probably be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy once it gets to human trials.
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