In a study from the School of Life Sciences of EPFL in Switzerland, scientists found that infection with a bacterium that causes gum disease and bad breath may increase the risk of heart disease.
The study suggests another potential risk factor that physicians might screen for to identify people at risk of heart disease.
It may also show that treatments for colonization or infection with the oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum may help reduce heart disease risk.
Although big progress has been made in understanding how heart disease develops, the understanding of how infections, inflammation, and genetic risk factors contribute is still incomplete.
In the study, the team analyzed genetic information, health data, and blood samples from a subset of 3,459 people.
Among these participants, around 6% experienced a heart attack or another harmful heart event during the 12-year follow-up period.
The team tested participants’ blood samples for the presence of antibodies against 15 viruses, six bacteria, and one parasite.
They found that antibodies against F. nucleatum, a sign of previous or current infection by the bacterium, were linked with a slightly increased risk of a heart event.
The team says F. nucleatum might contribute to heart disease risk through increased systemic inflammation due to bacterial presence in the mouth, or through direct colonization of the arterial walls or plaque lining the arterial walls.
The team also confirmed that individuals with high genetic risk scores for coronary heart disease are at elevated risk for heart disease events, as previous studies have shown.
If future studies confirm the link between F. nucleatum and heart disease, the researchers say it may lead to new approaches to identifying those at risk or preventing heart events.
The study adds to growing evidence that inflammation triggered by infections may contribute to the development of coronary heart disease and increase the risk of a heart attack.
The results may lead to new ways of identifying high-risk people or lay the groundwork for studies of preventive interventions that treat F. nucleatum infections to protect the heart.
If you care about gum health, please read studies about four health conditions linked to gum disease, and new gel could treat gum disease by fighting inflammation.
If you care about heart disease, please read studies about best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.
The study was conducted by Flavia Hodel et al and published in eLife.
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