Scientists have found evidence suggesting that bacteria in our mouths have the potential to cause the spread of cancerous cells in our bodies. When we eat food or enjoy some water, we take in a lot of bacteria, but most of the bacteria are harmless, especially due to the antibacterial agents in the saliva. This bacteria-field environment is called oral microbiome.
There is a specific type of bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is part of the oral microbiome, and it is mostly found under the gums. Here’s where it gets interesting; most other bacteria can travel through the digestive tract and not cause damage.
How exactly do the F.nucleatum bacteria relate to cancer?
What makes the F.nucleatum so dangerous is that the bacteria can travel in the blood and cause infections in the heart, liver, and brain. The scientists also found that the same bacteria are also heavily present in colon tumors. Previous studies have established that when F.nucleatum comes into contact with cancer cells, it enters those cells and triggers two proteins’ release. The proteins are known as CXCL1 and IL-8. They are the same proteins that activate the immune system to arm itself to respond against infections.
The immune response causes inflammation, including in the cancerous cells, which causes the release of more proteins conducive to the development of cancerous cells. This indirect involvement of the F.nucleatum is why scientists believe that it has an indirect link in how cancer cells spread. However, there is also another concern. F.nucleatum is a bacteria that facilitate the triggering of the immune system to respond towards achieving balance. Scientists believe that simply eliminating the bacteria might negatively affect the immune system.
Scientists have to fully understand the mechanism behind non-harmful bacteria and their purpose in the human body before deciding whether it is good to eliminate the bacteria. They also need to understand the mechanisms behind the different types of cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer.