Bad breath may be linked to heart disease

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Infection with a common bacteria may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease

Oral bacteria could increase the risk of heart disease, according to a new study. Specifically, the study scientists found that prevalent bacteria, which are known to cause gum inflammation, oral cancer and bad breath, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, found that people who carried antibodies that attack the oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum had a marginally increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These antibodies indicate either past or current infections with the bacteria in question.

“F. nucleatum could increase cardiovascular risk through increased systemic inflammation due to bacterial presence in the mouth or through direct colonization of arterial walls or plaque lining the arterial walls,” said Flavia Hodel, lead author of the study.

Heart disease, attributed to a mix of genetic and environmental risk factors, accounts for about 1/3 of deaths worldwide. The most common form, coronary heart disease, results from a build-up of plaque in the arteries that supply the heart. Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue can lead to a heart attack.

“Although tremendous progress has been made in understanding how coronary heart disease develops, understanding how infections, inflammation and genetic risk factors contribute is still lacking,” he added. “We wanted to fill some gaps in the understanding of coronary heart disease by looking more fully at the role of infections,” added the researcher.

The researchers studied genetic data, health records and blood samples from nearly 3,500 Swiss participants. During a 12-year observation period, about 6% of these people had a heart attack or other major cardiovascular event. The researchers ran blood tests to detect antibodies that targeted 15 different viruses, six types of bacteria and one parasite.

In particular, people with antibodies against Fusobacterium nucleatum showed a slightly increased risk of a cardiovascular event. As expected, people with a high genetic predisposition to coronary heart disease showed higher odds of having a heart attack.

The findings suggest that treating oral infections may reduce heart disease risks. If future research verifies the link between this bacterium and heart disease, innovative strategies may emerge to identify people at risk of cardiovascular events.

“Our study adds to the growing evidence that inflammation caused by infections can contribute to the development of coronary heart disease and increase the risk of heart attack,” explained lead author Jacques Feley.

“Our findings may lead to new ways of identifying high-risk individuals or lay the groundwork for studies of preventive interventions that address F. nucleatum infections to protect the heart,” the researcher concluded.

The study was published in the journal eLife.

SOURCE: Studyfinds, ertnews.gr

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