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Oral bacteria 'can cause heart attacks'

7th September 2010

Plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth can increase the risk of heart attacks if they enter the bloodstream, new research suggests.

The University of Bristol's Professor Howard Jenkinson, author of medical books such as Oral Microbiology at a Glance, told the Society for General Microbiology's autumn meeting that poor dental hygiene can have a significant impact on an individual's health.

Research carried out by the university and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland showed that streptococcus bacteria, which are frequently found in the mouth, have a protein on their surface that can force platelets in the blood to form clots to protect them from the body's immune system.

Professor Jenkinson continued: 'Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain.'

According to the NHS, streptococcus bacteria can cause a number of health problems, ranging from mild issues such as sore throats to life-threatening conditions like necrotizing fasciitis.
 

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