May 4, 2017

Scientific Study Links P. Gingivalis With Coronary Inflammation

P. Gingivalis – the oral pathogen responsible for periodontal disease – has now been shown to cause coronary inflammation.

A recent study by researchers at Örebro University, Sweden, used gene-expression analysis to demonstrate a direct link between periodontal pathogens and coronary inflammation. Their research is the first to show a direct causal link between these bacteria and heart disease, and builds on the growing body of correlational evidence linking oral microbes and cardiac health conditions.


The bacteria at the center of the discovery is the oral anaerobe Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), which is one of the primary pathogens in the progression of periodontitis. It is detected in up to 85% of periodontitis cases. P. gingivalis generates ‘gingipains’ – enzymes which create biofilms on smooth muscle cells, allowing the bacterium to grow in the human body. It is frequently found in the coronary arteries of heart attack patients.


To identify how P. gingivalis impacts coronary muscles, the team infected smooth muscle cell samples with the pathogen and analysed the cells’ gene expressions over time. Smooth muscle cells are the main components of the aortic wall, and any form of dysfunction in these is associated with deposits of fatty materials in arteries (atherosclerosis – heart disease). The scientists found that P. gingivalis impacts two local genes in the aortic muscular system: the anti-inflammatory gene Angpt1 is ‘downregulated’ while its pro-inflammatory counterpart Angpt2 is ‘upregulated’.


This research represents the first time a direct causal link has been found between periodontal bacteria and heart disease. The authors now plan on looking for biomarkers which will allow clinicians to diagnose both the presence of P. gingivalis and the atherosclerosis caused by it, so that both may be treated more efficiently. Their research was featured in the journal Infection and Immunity.


This article appeared on the European Association for Osseointegration on March 16, 2016