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Susceptibility To Head And Neck Cancer Can Be Increased By A Bacterial And Fungal Infection

The role of bacteria and fungi in head and neck cancer was analyzed in a recent study.

The metabolic substances produced by these organisms were the main point of research among scientists.

Susceptibility To Head And Neck Cancer Can Be Increased By A Bacterial And Fungal Infection

As found in the research, the biofilm produced by certain fungi can make a person prone to developing head and neck cancer.

Susceptibility To Head And Neck Cancer Can Be Increased By A Bacterial And Fungal Infection

What do we mean by head and neck cancer?

The medical term for head and neck cancer is Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC). It mainly develops in the mouth, nose, and throat, particularly in the mucous membrane of these organs.

It the sixth most common type of cancer among all the other ones across the world. It accounts for 890,000 confirmed cases and 450,000 fatalities worldwide in the year 2018.

There are certain factors that can augment the risk of HNSCC in an individual. These include consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and the infection of Human papillomavirus (HPV).

Findings of the research.

The research was carried out by a group of scientists at the Sao Paulo State University in Araraquara, Brazil.

The study was aimed at learning more about metabolomics. Metabolomics deals with the analysis of the metabolic substances produced by an organism.

Researchers believe having extensive knowledge of the subject will help in better understanding of HNSCC type of cancers.

The study is published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. The research showed the role of bacteria and fungi in activating certain genes that can contribute to the development of head and neck cancers.

As found in the study, the formation of the biofilm by these organisms activates the tumor cells through the initiation of the cell signaling pathways, which is necessary for the development of tumors.

Biofilms are a structure that forms when the bacteria aggregate together to form a community.

The study focuses on the production of metabolites by biofilms. These metabolites can be an intermediate or end product of the metabolic pathways of the organism. They can influence the expression of the genes that are believed to be associated with tumor growth.

Influence of microorganisms on the cancer cells

Metabolic substances were collected from the biofilm formed by the organisms and they were introduced in the mucous of healthy cells of the oral epithelium and to the HNSCC cells.

The microorganisms used for collecting metabolic substances are mainly Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus, a fungus and a bacteria, respectively.

While the fungus Candida albicans is the most common type of fungus found in humans, the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is largely associated with a staph infection in the nose.

Healthy and neoplastic cells were stimulated with either a single biofilm or a combination of biofilms from both the microorganisms for 4 hrs or 24 hours. 

It was observed that the gene expression had changed in both the healthy and the neoplastic cells of the oral epithelium.

The study also found that the metabolic substances that the biofilm produce can cause altered host cell activities even in distant sites from the site of primary infection.

For patients having dentures, Candida albicans infection is very common and it can induce cancers of the esophagus or some other body parts.

Ways to avert the risk

The majority of oral denture infections are caused by these two microorganisms that were chosen for the study. 

Candida albicans is responsible for 66.7% and Staphylococcus aureus accounts for 49.5% of infections, respectively.

Maintaining oral hygiene and denture hygiene is a key step in averting the risk factor of cancer.

Experts believe that further study is needed to get a better understanding of the oral microbe profile that consists of more than 700 species of microorganisms.

The role of Human papillomavirus also needs further analysis to counter the threat possessed by it for the progression of HNSCC in humans.

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