Tongue Bacteria may help Diagnose Heart Failure

Two types of good bacteria that are commonly found on our tongues could be used to predict a person's risk of heart failure.

Bacteria have been described as a window to our health – they can be analysed to reveal information about our physical health, without the need for invasive procedures. Despite their microscopic size, bacteria play vital roles within the body. In the stomach and intestines, good bacteria help to break down food, make vitamins and fight off more dangerous strains of bacteria. They could also help diagnose heart failure – here's how.

A recent study, published on the European Society of Cardiology online, found that bacteria on the tongue could be used to accurately diagnose heart failure1. One symptom of heart failure is a noticeably red tongue with a yellow coating. This led researchers to investigate how microbes on the tongue are influenced by heart failure. They discovered that the levels of two oral bacteria, Eubacterium and Solobacterium, on the tongue decline as heart failure progresses. Everyone already has these bacteria on their tongues, but their levels seem to go down in people with heart failure.

Heart failure has been described as an epidemic in the UK2. More than 900,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with heart failure3 and around 1% of the NHS budget is spent on the condition2. Like most heart conditions, swift diagnosis often leads to better outcomes. The researchers from this study have stated that heart failure could be screened, diagnosed using the bacteria on the tip of our tongues.

These new findings should be taken with a lick of salt. Lots more research is needed to confirm these findings so don't expect to see tongue-testing for heart failure any time soon.

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