Bacteria From Mouth Can Lead to Heart Inflammation:
MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- A type of bacteria from the
mouth can cause blood clots and lead to serious heart problems if
it enters the bloodstream, a new study indicates.
The bacteria, called
Streptococcus gordonii, contributes to plaque that forms on the surface of teeth. If the bacteria enters the bloodstream through bleeding gums, it can cause problems by masquerading as human proteins, the researchers found.
The study authors, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, discovered
S. gordonii can produce a molecule on its surface that
enables it to mimic the human protein fibrinogen, which is a
This activates platelets (cells that are found in blood and
involved in clotting) and causes them to clump inside blood
vessels. The resulting blood clots encase the bacteria, protecting
the invader from the immune system and from antibiotics used to
Platelet clumping can result in growths on the heart valves
(endocarditis) or blood vessel inflammation that can block blood
supply to the heart or brain.
The findings, to be presented at a Society for General
Microbiology meeting in Dublin this week, could help lead to new
treatments for infective endocarditis, said study author Dr. Helen
"In the development of infective endocarditis, a crucial step is the bacteria sticking to the heart valve and then activating platelets to form a clot," Petersen said in a society news release. "We are now looking at the mechanism behind this sequence of events in the hope that we can develop new drugs which are needed to prevent blood clots and also infective endocarditis."
The researchers stressed that it's important to keep the gums
healthy and get regular dental care.
"We are also trying to determine how widespread this phenomenon is by studying other bacteria related to S. gordonii," Petersen said. "What our work clearly shows is how important it is to keep your mouth healthy through regular brushing and flossing, to keep these bacteria in check."
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
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