The bacteria, Listeria, was genetically engineered to be weaker than usual and then infected with a dose of radioactive isotope. That's the kind that is usually used to help treat certain types of cancer. The normal issue with radioactive medication for cancer is that it's hard to get the radiation to kill just the cancer cells. In the body the radiation tends to attack all cells. This is one reason why certain treatments for cancer take a huge toll on the body of the patient receiving treatment.
Some pretty clever sounding scientists thought of a great idea to try and counter the radioactive effect on the rest of the body. By producing these weakened bacteria and 'infecting' the cancer patient with them there was great evidence to show certain types of cancer cells were destroyed, and most of the non cancerous cells were relatively unharmed.
How does it do this? It uses the fact that cancer cells suppress immune function to give the a bigger dose of radiation. The healthy cells that get infected with the Listeria can fight it, kill it and get rid of the radiation pretty quickly, meaning they don't get a huge dose of it. The cancerous cells, on the other hand, are unable to fight off the bacteria due to their suppressed immune response. This means the bacteria stay alive in the cell for longer. The whole time they're in the cell they're giving it a dose of radiation. Using the technique the scientists were able to pinpoint certain cells to give high doses of radiation and certain ones to receive much less. Effectively killing the cancer cells and not the healthy ones.
Although this science is relatively young and the paper was only published this year there seems to be a lot of promise that with a few modifications this could turn out to be a great way to battle cancer, especially some of the hardest ones to fight with current techniques.
We know this isn't strictly health and fitness advice that you can go and implement in your life, but nevertheless it's an interesting development in the field of health science. What do you think about it?