Study finds connection between gut bacteria and fatty deposits in heart arteries
The study looked at the gut bacteria and heart images of 8,973 people between the ages of 50 and 65 who did not have any known heart disease
The research team also found that some of the species linked to the build-up of fatty deposits in heart arteries were linked to the levels of the same species in the mouth – (Representative Image: iStock)
Researchers in Sweden conducted a study to see if certain bacteria in the gut are related to coronary atherosclerotic plaques, the deposits that accumulate in the arteries of the heart. These plaques are build-ups of fat and cholesterol and can cause heart attacks.
The researchers from Uppsala and Lund University published their findings in a scientific journal called Circulation.
The study looked at the gut bacteria and heart images of 8,973 people between the ages of 50 and 65 from Uppsala and Malmö who did not have any known heart disease. All of them were part of a larger study called the Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study (SCAPIS).
“We found that oral bacteria, especially species from the Streptococcus genus, are associated with increased occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques in the small arteries of the heart when present in the gut flora. Species from the Streptococcus genus are common causes of pneumonia and infections of the throat, skin and heart valves. We now need to understand whether these bacteria are contributing to atherosclerosis development,” said Tove Fall, Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the SciLifeLab, Uppsala University, who coordinated the study together with researchers from Lund University.
Advancements in technology have enabled large-scale deep characterisation of bacterial communities in biological samples by sequencing the DNA content and comparing it to known bacteria sequences.
Additionally, improvements in imaging techniques have enabled the detection and measurement of early changes in the small vessels of the heart.
The SCAPIS study represents one of the largest collections in the world of both these kinds of data.
“The large number of samples with high-quality data from cardiac imaging and gut flora allowed us to identify novel associations. Among our most significant findings, Streptococcus anginosus and S. oralis subsp. oralis were the two strongest ones,” says Sergi Sayols-Baixeras, lead author from Uppsala University.
The research team also found that some of the species linked to the build-up of fatty deposits in heart arteries were linked to the levels of the same species in the mouth. This was measured using faecal and saliva samples collected from the Malmö Offspring Study and Malmö Offspring Dental Study.