ISLAMABAD- A substance secreted by mucous cells in the lining of the stomach seems to act as a natural antibiotic, protecting against deep infection by Helicobacter pylori -- the bacterium that causes most cases of stomach ulcers.

Researchers reported in the journal Science that the H. pylori usually only infects the surface layer of the stomach, rarely making it into the deeper layers of the stomach wall. Dr. Minoru Fukuda of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California, said that he and his colleagues observed a "very nice correlation" between decreasing amounts of H. pylori and increasing concentrations of a particular type of mucin, a substance produced by mucous glands, at deeper layers of the stomach lining. This substance caused H. pylori to lose its shape, become immobile, and eventually die in lab experiments. On the other hand, another type of mucin produced at the surface of the stomach actively supported the growth of the organism. His team believes the bug-killing mucin could help in the design of safer drugs that could treat stomach ulcers and prevent stomach cancer associated with H. pylori. Fukuda predicted that cows can be bred to produce inhibitory mucins in their milk, an inexpensive way to help eradicate H. pylori infection.