Researcher thinks houseflies spread ulcer-causing bacteria
August 28, 1997
Web posted at: 9:42 p.m. EDT (0142 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Al Hinman
BOSTON (CNN) -- If you have an ulcer, you may not have just stress or a bad diet to blame.
The true cause could be buzzing around your head.
Scientists have known that a common bacteria called H. Pylori can cause ulcers and stomach cancer. Dr. Peter Grubel, a Boston researcher, is trying to prove that the common housefly is a global carrier for the ulcer bacteria.
"I compare flies to big airplanes for bacteria," Grubel said. "One single fly actually has been shown to carry along six million bacteria on the outside and even more than 40 million bacteria on the inside."
Scientists once thought that H. Pylori survived only inside the human stomach. But it has now been discovered in human waste. And the ulcer bacteria problem is most acute in developing nations, where sanitation can be poor and flies can be everywhere.
"We thought that flies probably take the bacteria up when they feed and produce on this material, and then actually release it when they land on your steak, on your food," Grubel said.
He says his research points up the need for better sanitation.
The good news is that only a fraction of those who become infected with H. Pylori ever develop stomach problems. And because it is tough to control flies, doctors say the best way to prevent ulcers is to eliminate other risk factors, such as stress, smoking, drinking and eating the wrong foods.
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