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Bacteria May Give You A Heart Attack!

Bacteria May Give You A Heart Attack!

Bacterial biofilms associated with plaque may cause artery blockage.

heartattackIt hit me like a heart attack

When you finally left me girl…

Enrique Iglesias might have had a heart attack because of his beloved, in reality the culprit are bacteria. The most common cause of heart attack is Atherosclerosis, a condition where excess deposition of plaque inside arteries occurs. Emerging research published online in mBio®, the online open access journal of  American Society for Microbiology, indicates that stress, fear or over exertion may trigger these bacteria to cause a heart attack in vulnerable people. Hormones released during such events cause bacterial biofilm to disperse and rupture the plaque deposits into the bloodstream. This causes clogging of artery and restriction of blood flow and hence death.

Atherosclerosis is the major underlying cause of restriction of blood flow in the arteries, leading to its obstruction, heart failure, stroke and heart attack in humans. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood in our heart and other parts of our body. The main constituents which make up plaque are fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque keeps depositing and ultimately narrows the arteries. The result is such that it limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to organs in our body leading to nausea and finally death.

Bacterial biofilms are polysaccharides or sugars produced for their own survival from harsh conditions. During stress, fear or over-exertion certain hormones are released in our body which provide a signal that causes dispersion of bacteria from these biofilms or scaffold. These signals or enzymes not only break their own scaffold but also surrounding tissues that prevent the arterial plaque deposit from rupturing into the bloodstream.

In this study, scientists injected norepinephrine, a hormone generally released during stress, fear or over exertion situations, to Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms under laboratory conditions. This bacterium is most commonly found to be associated with carotid arteries. Upon addition of this hormone, an in vitro spike in hormone concentration induced biofilm dispersion. Because these bacterial biofilms are bound to arterial plaques, biofilms dispersion could cause sudden release of nearby plaque thus triggering a heart attack.

This study is the first to report ever that biofilm bacteria are bound within a carotid arterial plaque deposit. Therefore, this results paves the way to future research for considering bacterial biofilms as a part in pathology for atherosclerosis.


Lanter, B., Sauer, K., & Davies, D. (2014). Bacteria Present in Carotid Arterial Plaques Are Found as Biofilm Deposits Which May Contribute to Enhanced Risk of Plaque Rupture mBio, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01206-14
plaque, heart attack, bacteria, carotid, arterial, biofilm, disperse, stress, hormones

This post was written by Geetanjali Yadav:
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