Can mouth bacteria cause heart problems?

18 May 2008

Question

I’d heard in the past that oral bacteria can cause heart valve problems and hip joint infections. Is this true and which bacteria are involved?

Answer

We put this question to Marcello Riggio:

Yes, oral bacteria can be transported around the body and the blood. If they can get into the blood stream they can be transported to various body sites and cause far more serious systemic infections. You're quite right. You mentioned two infections: endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart valves in the inner lining of the heart and hip joint infections. There are a number of bacteria that do cause endocarditis, for example. These tend to be Staphylococci and Streptococci. There are a number of other oral bacteria which have also been implicated in that. We've carried out a study looking at prosthetic hip joint infections, looking at the types of bacteria which are involved in these particular infections. We've identified a number of bacteria including bacteria which are known to reside in the mouth.

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