Identification of diagnostic markers for severe disease risk in Helicobacter pylori-infected patients

Gastric cancer is a major global health issue. It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with almost one million new cases arising each year and a five-year survival rate of 20-30%. Exploring new ways to provide better diagnosis and treatment of this potentially deadly disease is something medical professionals over the world are seeking to achieve.

Through the Alliance, the team of Dr Terry Kwok-Schuelein, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Monash University and Dr Mark Achtman, Professor from the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick have the unique opportunity to explore one of the most common human pathogens, Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori in short). H. pylori resides in the stomach of almost 50% of the human population. Although H. pylori infection does not cause illness in most infected people, the bacterium can trigger damage to the stomach lining and cause long-term inflammation or even tissue deterioration, leading to 50% of gastric cancer cases worldwide. The questions surrounding whether it is predestined in our genes for H. pylori infection to cause disease, or whether a disease outcome is influenced by the genes of the bacterium, or both, forms the basis of this collaborative global study.

Through the Alliance, Dr Kwok-Schuelein and Dr Achtman will lead a team to share skills, expertise and knowledge to tackle this global health issue. By combining bacterial genomics expertise at Warwick with the H. pylori pathogenesis and human genomics expertise at Monash, a unique opportunity has been created to assess the role of the relationship between human and H. pylori genetics in the development of H. pylori-associated disease.

The knowledge gained will achieve significant steps forward in the identification of carriers of the H. pylori bacteria who are at risk of adverse health outcomes even before symptoms appear. It will also assist in the selection of who should be targeted for eradication therapy and endoscopy.

Principle applicants

Professor Tina Overton

Dr Terry Kwok-Schuelein

Senior Lecturer, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University

Dr Mark Achtman

Dr Mark Achtman

Professor, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick

Co-applicants

Dr Rebecca Gorrell, Research Fellow, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Monash University,

Dr Lawrence Young, Professor Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick