Bacterial gum infection identified as bar to antibiotic prevention of heart attack

January 9, 2006

Brussels, 06 Jan 2006

Researchers in Finland have found that patients with periodontitis (severe bacterial gum infection) do not benefit from antibiotic treatment for heart attacks. This is the first time such a link has been made.

The results, published in the journal of Atherosclerosis, bring together research from the Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki and the Divisions of Cardiology and Infectious Diseases in the District Hospital of Helsinki and Uusimaa.

The researchers found that long-term antibiotic treatment for heart attacks is effective only in patients without periodontitis. It appears that periodontitis is such a chronic bacterial infection that the benefits of antibiotic treatment are lost.

During a year of observation, 79 per cent of subjects without periodontitis who had suffered a heart attack survived the full year without a cardiovascular event. This figure dropped to 74 per cent in the group who had lost all of their teeth, and fell further to 66 per cent in patients with periodontitis.

In patients under the age of 65, the results were even more striking: 90 per cent of heart attack sufferers survived a full year without a cardiovascular event in the group without periodontitis. This figure dropped to 64 per cent in the group with periodontitis and dropped further to 50 per cent in those without teeth.

In 2000, a separate study found that 64 per cent of the adult Finnish population had some form of periodontitis, with up to 20 per cent suffering a severe form of the infection. These figures compare unfavourably with a study of Sri Lankan tea labourers, which found that in the absence of any oral hygiene; around 10 per cent suffer from severe periodontal disease with rapid loss of teeth and 80 per cent suffer moderate tooth loss. The remaining 10 per cent will not suffer any periodontitis.

Further information:
Susanna Paju
Academy of Finland Post Doctoral Researcher, DDS, PhD,
Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki
Tel: +358 9 191 25194
E-mail: Contact

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2005
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