Tongue Microbes Might be Indicator for Heart Disease

New research shows microorganisms on this part of the body may be able to diagnose chronic heart failure.

Microorganisms on the tongue might help identify and diagnose heart failure, according to new research. This finding might help clinicians look at one more factor that had not been explored.

The research was presented at the HFA Discoveries, a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

The study’s author Tianhui Yuan, PhD, No.1 Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine said the coloration of tongues in those with chronic heart failure differ from health people.

"Normal tongues are pale red with a pale white coating, Yuan explained. “Heart failure patients have a redder tongue with a yellow coating and the appearance changes as the disease becomes more advanced."

He also noted that the composition, quantity, and the dominant bacteria on the coating of the tongue are different in the two groups.

In previous, unrelated microorganism research tongue coating was studied in trying to identify pancreatic cancer. In that study, evidence showed the coating could distinquish between those patients with that form of cancer and those who did not.

In that research, investigators proposed the idea that tongue bacteria was an early marker to help diagnose pancreatic cancer. Additionally, they surmised that people with a microbial imbalance could stimulate inflammation and disease. And both inflammation and immune response play a role in heart failure.

For the Yuan-led study, his group examined 42 hospitalized patients with chronic heart failure and 28 who were healthy. The study criteria included patients who did not have oral, tongue or dental diseases; had suffered an upper respiratory tract infection in the previous week; had used antibiotics and immunosuppressants in the previous week; or were pregnant or lactating.

To identify bacteria in the participants' samples, the investigators used 16S rRNA gene sequencing. They gathered samples by using stainless steel spoons on the participants before they had eaten their breakfast or brushed their teeth.

In their findings, 5 categories of bacteria distinguished heart failure patients from healthy people with an area under the curve of 0.84 (where 1.0 is a 100% accurate prediction and 0.5 is a random finding).

Interestingly, there was a downward trend in eubacterium and solobacterium levels with increasingly advanced heart failure.

While Yuan acknowledged the need for further studies, he did see value in understanding microorganisms and their connection to heart function with regards to looking at the potential clinical applications.

“Our results suggest that tongue microbes, which are easy to obtain, could assist with wide-scale screening, diagnosis, and long-term monitoring of heart failure,” Yuan concluded."