Streptococcus bacteria commonly live in the mouth, confined within communities termed biofilms and are responsible for causing tooth plaque and gum disease. The University of Bristol researchers, in collaboration with scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), have shown that once let loose in the bloodstream, Streptococcus bacteria can use a protein on their surface, called PadA, as a weapon to force platelets in the blood to bind together and form clots.
Inducing blood clots is a selfish trick used by bacteria, as Professor Jenkinson points out. “When the platelets clump together they completely encase the bacteria. This provides a protective cover not only from the immune system, but also from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection,” he said. “Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves (endocarditis), or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain.“
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