Dental Tribune International

Tongue microbes may indicate cardiac health status

By Dental Tribune International
July 07, 2020

GUANGZHOU, China/SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France: The connection between oral health and general health is an ongoing focus of investigation in various areas of medicine. New research presented on HFA Discoveries, a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology, has found that microorganisms on the tongue could aid the screening, diagnosis and monitoring of heart failure and recommended that the underlying mechanisms regarding this association be studied further.

Previous research has shown that microorganisms in the tongue coating could distinguish patients with pancreatic cancer from healthy people. The authors of that study proposed this as an early marker to diagnose pancreatic cancer, and since certain bacteria are linked with immunity, they suggested that the microbial imbalance could promote inflammation and disease. Inflammation and the immune response also play a role in heart failure.

“The tongues of patients with chronic heart failure look totally different to those of healthy people,” said Dr Tianhui Yuan, author of the cardiology study and a doctor at the No. 1 Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. “Normal tongues are pale red with a pale white coating. Heart failure patients have a redder tongue with a yellow coating and the appearance changes as the disease becomes more advanced.”

Yuan added: “More research is needed, but our results suggest that tongue microbes, which are easy to obtain, could assist with wide-scale screening, diagnosis, and long-term monitoring of heart failure. The underlying mechanisms connecting microorganisms in the tongue coating with heart function deserve further study.”

The study investigated the composition of the tongue microbiome in participants with and without chronic heart failure, enrolling 42 patients with chronic heart failure and 28 healthy controls. Samples of the tongue coating were taken in the morning before participants had brushed their teeth or eaten breakfast, and a gene sequencing technique was used to identify bacteria in the samples.

The researchers found that, while heart failure patients and healthy people, respectively, had the same types of microorganisms in their tongue coatings, there was no overlap in bacterial content between the two groups.

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