Bacterial toxins and DNA damage

A really interesting post over at Notes from the Biomass concerns a report from Science last week that several commensal strains of E. coli (living in the human gut) produce toxic peptides that trigger DNA double-strand breaks in human cells. More comment in Science can be found here.

The implications of this are quite startling – the toxins may act as a fitness factor (slowing the turnover of gut cells and so allowing the bacteria to establish themselves) or a virulence factor, with possible roles in human disease. NFTB notes that the lack of media attention paid to this finding is quite surprising.