Newly identified oral bacterium linked to heart disease and meningitis

Feb 21, 2012
These are colonies of S. tigurinus on sheep blood agar. Credit: Andrea Zbinden

A novel bacterium, thought to be a common inhabitant of the oral cavity, has the potential to cause serious disease if it enters the bloodstream, according to a study in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. Its identification will allow scientists to work out how it causes disease and evaluate the risk that it poses.

The bacterium was identified by researchers at the Institute of Medical Microbiology of the University of Zurich and has been named Streptococcus tigurinus after the region of Zurich where it was first recognised. S. tigurinus was isolated from blood of patients suffering from endocarditis, meningitis and spondylodiscitis (inflammation of the spine). It bears a close resemblance to other Streptococcus strains that colonise the mouth. Bleeding gums represent a possible route of entry for into the bloodstream.

The similarity of S. tigurinus to other related bacteria has meant that it has existed up until now without being identified. Its recent identification is clinically important, explained Dr Andrea Zbinden who led the study. "Accurate identification of this bacterium is essential to be able to track its spread. Further research must now be done to understand the strategies S. tigurinus uses to successfully cause disease. This will allow infected patients to be treated quickly and with the right drug."

Dr Zbinden said that while the discovery of the bacterium is no cause for alarm, it is important that it is recognised and the risk is quantified. "This bacterium seems to have a natural potential to cause severe disease and so it's important that clinicians and microbiologists are aware of it," she said. "The next step is to work out exactly how common this bacterium is in the and what risk it poses. Immunosuppression, abnormal heart valves, dental surgeries or are common predisposing factors for by this group of bacteria. However, the specific risk factors for S. tigurinus remain to be determined."

Explore further: Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

More information: Dr Zbinden’s paper “Streptococcus tigurinus sp. nov., isolated from blood of patients with endocarditis, meningitis and spondylodiscitis,” will be published online ahead of print on Wednesday 22 February in the Society for General Microbiology’s International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. Study online: DOI:10.1099/ijs.0.038299-0

Provided by Society for General Microbiology

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists decode genome of oral pathogen

Apr 05, 2007

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have decoded the genome of a bacteria normally present in the healthy human mouth that can cause a deadly heart infection if it enters the bloodstream.

'Jailbreak' bacteria can trigger heart disease

Sep 06, 2010

Plaque-causing bacteria can jailbreak from the mouth into the bloodstream and increase your risk of heart attack says a scientist at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn meeting in Nottingham.

Serious disease in pet lizards caused by new bacteria

Sep 19, 2008

Skin infections are common in pet lizards and can lead to fatal organ disease and septicaemia. Infections are particularly risky in lizards that are bred in captivity for release into the wild, as they can spread into the ...

Recommended for you

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

Research sheds light on what causes cells to divide

Dec 24, 2014

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ...

Locking mechanism found for 'scissors' that cut DNA

Dec 24, 2014

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered what keeps an enzyme from becoming overzealous in its clipping of DNA. Since controlled clipping is required for the production of specialized immune system proteins, ...

Scrapie could breach the species barrier

Dec 24, 2014

INRA scientists have shown for the first time that the pathogens responsible for scrapie in small ruminants (prions) have the potential to convert the human prion protein from a healthy state to a pathological ...

Extracting bioactive compounds from marine microalgae

Dec 24, 2014

Microalgae can produce high value health compounds like omega-3s , traditionally sourced from fish. With declining fish stocks, an alternative source is imperative. Published in the Pertanika Journal of Tr ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.