People tend to think that brushing our teeth is related only to oral health and beauty, but it also has consequences with regard to the rest of our body. Scientists at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference, which is taking place this week in Dublin, have explained how bacteria that linger in our mouth may cause endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can lead to dead.
The bacteria, named Streptococcus gordonii, go into the blood stream through bleeding gums, where it mimics the protein fibrinogen. This protein activates a process that can lead to a blockade of the blood to the brain or heart. The researchers, who published a paper on the bacteria in 2010, are now studying this process in order to develop a drug that would be effective against infective endocarditis, which results in death in 30% of cases.
‘Our team has now identified the critical components of the S. gordonii molecule that mimics fibrinogen, so we are getting closer to being able to design new compounds to inhibit it,’ says Dr Steven Kerrigan, researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. ‘This would prevent the stimulation of unwanted blood clots.’
The importance of brushing our teeth may be old news, but it never hurts to bring it back with the latest research on the topic.
Petersen, H., Keane, C., Jenkinson, H., Vickerman, M., Jesionowski, A., Waterhouse, J., Cox, D., & Kerrigan, S. (2009). Human Platelets Recognize a Novel Surface Protein, PadA, on Streptococcus gordonii through a Unique Interaction Involving Fibrinogen Receptor GPIIbIIIa Infection and Immunity, 78 (1), 413-422 DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00664-09