Bacteria That Causes Gum Disease May Increase Risk of Heart Disease, Study Shows

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According to a recently published article in eLife, being infected with a type of bacteria responsible for causing both bad breath and gum disease could raise one’s chances of developing heart disease.

Oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum, a heart disease risk factor

The study proposes that screening for the oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum could be a potential risk factor for heart disease, and treating the infection may help to reduce the risk. Heart disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and previous research has linked infections to an increased risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.

Lead author Flavia Hodel and her team aimed to improve our understanding of coronary heart disease by investigating the role of infections. They analyzed data from a Swiss population-based cohort of 3,459 people and tested their blood samples for antibodies against various viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Approximately 6% of the participants experienced a harmful cardiovascular event during the 12-year follow-up period.

According to the study, antibodies against F. nucleatum, indicating past or current infection, were linked with a slight increase in cardiovascular risk, even after adjusting for known risk factors. The bacterium may increase risk through systemic inflammation or colonization of arterial walls or plaque.

People with high genetic risk scores susceptible to coronary heart disease

The authors confirmed that individuals with high genetic risk scores for coronary heart disease have a higher risk for cardiovascular events. The study also suggests that inflammation from infections, specifically F. nucleatum, could contribute to coronary heart disease and potentially lead to new prevention methods.

Jacques Fellay, the study’s senior author and Precision Medicine Unit head at Lausanne University Hospital, stated that the study provides more evidence for the role of infections in coronary heart disease development. The study’s outcome could pave the way for innovative approaches to identify individuals at a higher risk of heart disease or establish the foundation for preventive interventions that treat F. nucleatum infections to safeguard against heart-related conditions.

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