Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the University of Bristol In England have discovered that bacteria from dental plaque can trigger endocarditis, a life-threatening inflammation inside the heart muscle, specifically within the heart valves.
Scientists presenting their findings at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin, Ireland hope that this discovery will fuel further research leading to new drugs to combat persistent heart disease.
The specific type of oral bacteria that causes blood clots is called Streptococcus Gordonii -- present in even the healthiest of mouths -- and contributes to plaque that forms on the surface of teeth. When this type of bacteria enters the bloodstream via bleeding gums, they frequently wreak havoc by disguising himself as human proteins.
The researchers are also looking closely at other dental plaque bacteria that may have similar effects to Streptococcus Gordonii "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. 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," said Dr. Helen Petersen, one of the researchers presenting their findings at the conference. "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."