(PTI) Scientists have discovered a new weapon in their fight against cancer — salmonella, a bacteria found in all cold- and warm-blooded animals including humans.
Researchers at the University of Milan found that treating tumours with the bacteria can induce an immune response that effectively kills cancerous cells and also vaccinates against their further growth.
Cancer cells are especially dangerous because they evade the body's immune system that usually tracks down and kills any abnormalities.
Treating these cells with salmonella, the researchers said, effectively makes them "visible" to the body's immune cells and therefore open to attack, the Telegraph reported.
The University of Milan scientists, who carried out their research on laboratory mice, found the system works successfully. Now they are planning to carry out trials in humans next year.
Dr Maria Rescigno, who led the study, said that the salmonella, which was in too low a dose to cause harm in itself, acted as a "red flag" highlighting dangerous cancer cells.
The immune cells suddenly recognised and killed tumour cells in the mice, she said.
"They also protected mice from cancer spreading to other parts of the body — in a "vaccination" style preventive strategy."
"We are very excited about the results," Dr Rescigno said, adding she hopes human trials would begin in May.
The findings were published in the journal of Science Translational Medicine.