Researchers say they have found a bacteria that may one day change cholesterol so most of it won't be absorbed by the body.

The bacteria, tentatively identified as eubacterium, can change cholesterol into a compound called coprostanol that the body doesn't absorb, said Timothy Freier, a doctoral candidate who helped identified the bacteria.Freier said Thursday the bacteria appears to have fewer restrictions than other bacteria that also can change cholesterol to allow it to sneak through the digestive tract.

Too much cholesterol in the body can lead to hard deposits called plaque in the arteries feeding the heart and brain, reducing or cutting off blood flow and causing heart attack or stroke.

Dr. Margo Denke, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center, said the discovery of the bacteria is another step in cholesterol research.

"It will help us to modify the process of trying to reduce cholesterol in the digestive system," she said. "The product still has to show that it will help reduce blood cholesterol levels in man."

Freier said he and colleague Paul Hartman at Iowa State University identified the bacteria about a year ago.