A common oral bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, acts like a key to open a door in human blood vessels and leads the way for it and other bacteria like Escherichia coli to invade the body through the blood and make people sick, according to dental researchers at Case Western Reserve University.
Yiping Han, professor of periodontics at the Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine, made the discovery in her continued work with the Fusobacterium nucleatum bacterium, one of the most prevalent of the more than 700 bacteria in the mouth.
She found the gram-negative anaerobe has a novel adhesin or bonding agent she's named FadA that triggers a cascade of signals that break the junctures in an interlocking sheath of endothelial cells on blood vessel's surface just enough to allow F. nucleatum and other bacteria into the blood.
A description of bond-breaking process was described in the Molecular Microbiology article, "Fusobacterium nucleatum adhesin FadA binds vascular endothelial cadherin and alters endothelial integrity."
The microbiologist at the dental school has studied the oral bacteria over the past decade and was the first to find direct evidence that linked it to preterm labor and fetal death. But its presence is found in other infections and abscesses in the brain, lungs, liver, spleen and joints.
After finding and genetically matching the oral bacteria in the fetal death, she began to unravel the mystery of how an oral bacterium can be found throughout the body and jumps the blood-brain and placental barriers that usually block disease-causing agents.
Through years of lab work, her research led to the vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin, cell-cell junctures that link the endothelial vascular cells together on the blood vessels.
These junctures are like a hook and loop connection, but for some unknown reason when F. nucleatum invades
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Case Western Reserve University