A vaccine can protect against the bacteria thought to cause stomach ulcers and some stomach cancers, Italian researchers have shown in a laboratory experiment with mice.
The study, to be published today in the journal Science, showed that more than 70% of immunized mice were protected against a strain of Helicobacter pylori, the ulcer-causing bacteria.
"The finding suggests that vaccines against H. pylori are feasible and provides the rationale to proceed with human clinical trials," the Italian researchers reported.
Marta Marchetti of the Immunobiological Research Institute in Siena, Italy, was the first author of the study. Her co-authors included four other scientists from her research institute and one from the University of Siena.
Drs. L.S. Tompkins and Stanley Falkow of the Stanford University School of Medicine said the Italian research findings are of "extreme practical importance." Many doctors now treat H. pylori infection with antibiotics in hopes of curing ulcers or preventing stomach cancer. But Tompkins and Falkow said the bacteria has shown a tendency to develop resistance to the drugs.