Oral bacteria ‘mimic proteins’ to cause heart disease

Irish researchers have pinned down the secret of how some oral bacteria can have such a profound effect on systemic health.
Their findings, presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Dublin, explain the mechanism behind how oral bacteria such as Streptococcus gordonii can cause blood clots and trigger endocarditis.
The Streptococcus gordonii bacteria contributes to plaque when in the mouth. But when it enters the bloodstream, it mimics the human protein fibrinogen, causing the body to send clot-forming platelets to the area. The bacteria manipulates this function to surround itself with the clot, protecting it from both the body’s immune system and the effects of antibiotics.
This condition can go on to cause endocarditis – growths on the heart valves – or inflammation of blood vessels leading to the brain or heart.
The researchers, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the University of Bristol, believe that further investigation could lead to new drugs to treat infective heart disease.
Presenting the work, Helen Petersen said: ‘We are also trying to determine how widespread this phenomenon is by studying other bacteria related to S. gordonii. 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.’

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