Babies Born With Heart Disease Often Harmed by Gut
THURSDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Elevated blood levels of
harmful toxins from gut bacteria occur in about one in five infants
and toddlers with congenital heart disease, and the risk is even
higher after they have heart surgery, a new study has found.
These endotoxins -- bacterial fragments that cross into the
blood from the gut -- stimulate the immune system and can impair
the function of vital organs, the study authors explained.
Researchers at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom
measured endotoxin levels in 40 children, aged 2 months to 46
months, who required surgery for congenital heart disease.
About 20 percent of the children had higher than normal levels
of endotoxin before surgery and that increased to 27.5 percent of
the children after surgery, according to the findings published
online Aug. 25 in the
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
The researchers also found that children with high levels of
endotoxins in their blood had more signs of organ dysfunction, took
longer to recover from surgery, and tended to spend more time in
Dr. Nazima Pathan, the lead author of the study from the
National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said:
"The gut usually acts as a barrier that protects the body from
toxins. However, our study suggests that in some babies with
congenital heart disease, the gut isn't able to do this job
properly. These babies are often small and undernourished, and the
heart defect can mean that the blood supply to the gut is
And, "on top of this they have to cope with the trauma of
surgery and our study suggests that all these factors can affect
the protective barrier function of the gut," Pathan explained in a
college news release.
The researchers said they're now investigating how to protect
children with congenital heart disease from these toxins.
The American Heart Association has more about
congenital heart defects.
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