Baseball's Nelson Cruz Infected with Familiar Bacterium

Nelson Cruz, the professional baseball player for the Texas Rangers and one of 13 players suspended today by Major League Baseball for "violating the Joint Drug Agreement," or using performance-enhancing substances, released a statement saying that in the off-season he was found to be infected with Helicobacter pylori.

He added that it went undiagnosed for a month and then – as a result of the treatment he received – he lost 40 pounds. As the baseball season approached, he says he made the regrettable decision that landed him in the position he is in now.

H. pylori and lymphoma

Of the billions of bacteria in the world, H. pylori is the only one familiar to the world of lymphoma.

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium found in the gut. By itself, It is not a health problem. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as two-thirds of the adult population is infected with H. pylori, and in the overwhelming majority of them, it does not cause any problems.

However, when it does cause problems, they can include:

In fact, the 2005 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine went to an Australian named Barry Marshall, who deliberately infected himself with H. pylori as part of a wider and successful effort to prove that the bacterium was the cause of stomach ulcers and some stomach cancers.

Although it is not clear exactly what ailment was caused by the bacterium in Cruz, in the event he did indeed have MALT lymphoma, it should be noted that this is one subtype of the dozens of subtypes of lymphoma that is not only highly treatable and curable, but also the one not treated by chemotherapy or radiation, but rather by antibiotics.

Considering the extraordinary rarity of MALT lymphoma, some form of serious stomach ulcer seems more likely.

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