A newly identified strain of Streptococcus has been linked to some very serious diseases, according to a study in the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology. It bears a striking resemblance to more common strains of Streptococcus and so has gone unnoticed up to now. But what makes this discovery so important is where the bacterium calls home – your mouth!
Discovered by a group of researchers led by Dr. Andrea Zbinden at the Institute of Medical Microbiology of the University of Zurich, the new bacterium has been named S. tigurinus after the region in Zurich where it was first recognized. Other common strains of streptococcus, known as the S. mitis group, colonize the mouth and find their way to the blood stream usually by way of bleeding gums.
The S. mitis group is known to be linked with endocarditis. The new strain S. tigurinus was first isolated from the blood of patients suffering from endocarditis, meningitis and spondylodiscitis (inflammation of the spine).
“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,” Dr. Zbiden says. “The next step is to work out exactly how common this bacterium is in the oral cavity and what risk it poses. Immunosuppression, abnormal heart valves, dental surgeries or chronic diseases are common predisposing factors for blood infections by this group of bacteria. However, the specific risk factors for S. tigurinus remain to be determined.”
Further analysis of the new bacterium has shown it is anaerobic, Gram-positive, catalase-negative, and coccus-shaped, and shared 98.6% sequence similarity with S. mitis strain type ATCC 49456T.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, luckily the mitis group of Streptococcus is pretty common, S. tigurinus sharing its sequencing with Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pseudopneumoniae, Streptococcus oralis, and Streptococcus infantis. These are the strains commonly targeted by mouthwashes everywhere, so don’t panic. Good oral hygiene saves the day again.
IF you have concerns about your dental health visit Dr. Dan Matthews in Austin. He can diagnose potential problems like gum disease that might cause this bacteria to be a problem. Book an appointment with Dr. Matthews today!