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Chronic Heart Failure: Get Your Tongue Microbes Checked!

Oral Health Group

The microbes living in your tongue can help with an early diagnosis of chronic heart failure. Here is how Chinese researchers at HFA Discoveries on 7th July 2020 revealed their findings of a new biomarker of heart failure. HFA Discoveries is a well-known platform of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Tongues may have different color and coating depending on the heart condition. Chronic heart failure patients tend to have a white coating on their tongue. Recent reports suggest that the change in the tongue microbiota plays a significant role in diseases. However, the microbe dysbiosis in the tongue due to chronic heart failure is not clear.

The Study Setup

The research was led by Dr. Tianhui Yuan, a study author and a worker at No.1 Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. He asserts that the study has clearly shown the tongue of the patients of chronic heart failure has a different look than that of healthy ones.

A normal tongue is characterized by pale red color and a slight pale white coating. Meanwhile, on the other hand, chronic heart failure patients have a much redder tongue with a pale yellow coating. The appearance changes as the condition worsen.

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The study took 42 chronic heart failure participants and 28 healthy individuals. None of the participants had any oral, tongue, or dental disease or upper respiratory tract infection. Also, not any one of them was lactating or pregnant and had used immunodepressants or antibiotics in the last few days.

Researchers used stainless steel spoons to extract microbiota samples from the tongue in the morning. Before the sample, the participants brushed their teeth and had breakfast. They opt for 16S rRNA gene sequencing to identify the bacterial samples.

Supporting Research

Healthy controls vs CHF tongues
Image by escardio

There are many studies, which show a link between tongue microbiota and certain diseases. Previously, a study found that this thin layer on the tongue can be helpful to identify patients with pancreatic cancer.

The study has played an important role as a biomarker to diagnose pancreatic cancer in its early stages. Some of the bacteria living on the tongue are associated with immunity.

The imbalance of such microbiota can lead to inflammation and diseases. An interesting fact to be noted is that inflammation and immunity also have a link with chronic heart failure.

Research Analysis and its Significance

The study found that the microbiota on the tongues of chronic heart failure patients and healthy people varies in composition, type of bacteria, and quantity.

Upon analyzing the reports, they found that all of those 42 participants had the same type of bacteria in their samples. Surprisingly, healthy individuals also had the same type of bacteria. No overlap was observed between the two groups.

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With respect to the genus level, chronic heart failure patients had five different types of bacteria than healthy people. It had an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.84. Keep in mind that 1.0 was based on confirmed findings and 0.5 on random findings.

The team found that as severity increases in heart failure, there is a drop in levels of bacterial variety Eubacterium and Solobacterium. Dr. Yuan highlights that this study has great clinical significance.

Even though a lot more needs to be studied, some microbes are easy to extract and can play a significant role in wide screening, diagnosis, and treatment of heart failure in its early stage. Also, this could help monitor heart health on a long-term basis. What causes a change in this composition among heart failure patients is needs further study.