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Spicy food and stress are not the leading causes of stomach ulcers. A microbe is. The bacterium, called Helicobacter pylori, has infected half the world’s population, though only a small percentage will develop ulcers.

This image helped researchers understand how the bacterium causes disease. It shows the spiral-shaped microbe near the junctions that hold cells together, where it attaches before injecting a protein into the cells that damages the stomach lining.

The good news is that most ulcers are treatable with antibiotics. To promote the message that bacteria cause ulcers and that ulcers can be cured for good, the US Centers for Disease Control has designated October 6-13, 2003, as Ulcer Awareness Week.

See related GNN article
»Life on the Inside: Surveying the diversity of H. pylori genomes in one man’s stomach

Birgit Reinert

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Amieva, M.R. et al. Disruption of the epithelial apical-junctional complex by Helicobacter pylori CagA. Science 300, 1430-1434 (May 30, 2003).
 

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