Research Highlights | Published:


Microbes ramp up red-meat risk

Nature volume 524, page 8 (06 August 2015) | Download Citation

Microbes in the gut help to boost the risk of colon cancer when haem, the pigment found in red meat, is present.

Haem in the diet has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer — the pigment damages cells lining the gut, which leads to excessive cell proliferation. Noortje Ijssennagger at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and her colleagues fed mice a diet containing haem and found that animals that also received antibiotics did not have this gut damage or increased cell proliferation. Haem increased the level of a bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila, which breaks down the gut mucus lining, exposing gut cells to the damaging haem. Gut bacteria that produce sulfide also degrade this mucus barrier.

Using a biomarker to monitor gut mucus degradation could be a way to gauge colon-cancer risk, the authors say.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2015)

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing