Web Zap*Germs Archive

April 01, 2005

Live Oral Bacteria Identified in Plaque from Clogged Artery

The bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease have been suspected of having a role in the hardening of arteries that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. But now it's been proven.

Researchers at the University of Florida School of Dentistry, using a piece of artery removed from a partially toothless man, successfully identified living oral bacteria in the plaque coating the arterial cells. The two types found in the plaque, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, are among the types that cause gum infections in adults that lead to the greatest loss of teeth.

Professor Ann Progulske-Fox, leader of the UF team, plans to study tissue samples from 50 to 60 more patients.
She suspects some strains of the bacteria may be more successful in breaching the barriers separating oral tissues from the bloodstream. These bad bugs would become “most wanted” in the fight against periodontal and cardiovascular disease.

“More study samples will show us which strains are implicated in the disease process, so we can design simple diagnostic technology that could be used in a dental office to identify specific bacteria the patient is carrying and whether that bacteria is known to cause atherosclerotic disease,” said Progulske-Fox.

She envisions those diagnostic tests would be the first step in the war against periodontal and cardiovascular diseases, eventually leading to the development of a vaccine that would prevent oral bacteria from ever gaining a stronghold in the mouth. Antibiotic or antimicrobial treatments that could kill the bacteria after they have entered the circulatory system might also someday be possible.

For now, however, she advises people to practice good oral hygiene.


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