Heliobacter Pylori is a bacteria which has figured out a way to overcome the stomach’s inhospitable environment. When the body tries to eliminate the invaders from the stomach by triggering the inflammation response, painful ulcers result. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to stomach cancer.
There appeared to be a dilemma for scientists investigating the methodology employed by H. pylori in overcoming the hostility of its environment.
The overwhelming acidity of the stomach forces the bacteria to produce ammonia, which basic and can neutralize the hydrochloric acid. However, the stomach protects itself against destruction from corrosive acid through a protein called mucin. When it detects acid, mucin creates a protective gel, which also acts as a physical barrier against H. pylori. How can H. pylori make it to the stomach wall past an impenetrable barrier?
Mucin’s fatal flaw is its sensitivity to pH. When pH gets raised, the protective layer changes from a gel state to liquid state. Since the bacteria surround themselves with ammonia, which has a high pH, they can easily move through the gel which is liquefying around them. Previously, it was thought that H. pylori was using its tail and screw shape to physically burrow through the gel.
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