A type of gut bacteria found in the mouth may ultimately lead to the onset of colorectal cancer by manipulating the body’s immune response, Medical News Today reported.

Two new studies published this week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe highlighted a particular species of bacteria called Fusobacteria nucleatum. Researchers had previously found large quantities of Fusobacteria from the mouth in tissues taken from colorectal cancer patients. However, it was not yet known whether these bacteria actually caused the disease.

In the first study, the researchers found Fusobacteria in benign tumors of the colon that had the potential to eventually become cancerous, leading them to believe that the bacteria plays a role in early tumor formation.  In the second study, the researchers examined genetically engineered mice with a human-like form of colorectal cancer.  According to Medical News Today, the team found that the bacteria summoned a type of immune cell called myeloid cells, which can penetrate tumors and speed up cancer formation.

The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria, which maintain health by influencing the body’s immune system to help digest food.  However, these bacteria can sometimes trigger disease, and experts have theorized that an imbalance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria may ultimately lead to colorectal cancer.

The researchers believe that their findings may lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatment of the disease.

"Fusobacteria may provide not only a new way to group or describe colon cancers but also, more importantly, a new perspective on how to target pathways to halt tumor growth and spread."

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