Bacteria may be linked to lymphoma around the eye

AP is reporting on new research suggesting infection with bacteria from the Chlamydia family may play a role in the development of a type of lymphoma that affects the tissue around the eye, raising hopes that antibiotics may one day prove to be an alternative to chemotherapy or radiation.

The study, presented Monday at the European Cancer Conference, is the latest to link infection with cancer, following the establishment of the human papilloma virus as the major cause of cervical cancer and the bacteria Helicobacter pylori as a cause of stomach cancer.

The bacteria in question, Chlamydia psittaci, can be contracted from infected birds such as parrots. Scientists also suspect it can come from household cats because they also carry it. Chlamydia psittaci is known to cause a lung infection called psittacosis. The Chlamydia family of bacteria has been linked to cancer before. Scientists already have shown that another strain, Chlamydia trachomatis, is linked to the development of cervical cancer. Another, Chlamydia pneumoniae, has been linked to lung cancer.

In the future, eradication of the germ could be a common treatment method for low-grade lymphoma, replacing current cytotoxic chemotherapy or radiation.

In many of these types of lymphoma, an infection can start the process, but at some point the cancer becomes independent of the infection. So unless the infection is treated early, antibiotics may not be enough. The next step is to see whether antibiotics can reverse the cancer.

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