Some Foodborne Bacteria Target the Heart, Study Finds

By Rachael Rettner, MSNBC

Bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes can cause mild food-poisoning symptoms in healthy individuals, but some strains have an enhanced ability to invade the heart, a new study finds.

The ability to infect the heart, possibly causing serious heart disease, may be due to particular proteins on the surface of these bacteria. If so, these proteins could serve as a way to alert doctors to the threat of heart infections, the researchers said.

“If we find that these proteins are indeed how the bacteria target heart cells …then they’d almost be like a barcode,” said study researcher Nancy Freitag, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. “And so if people come down with an infection, or there’s an outbreak and it’s due to one of these strains, I think medical personnel could just be aware that there’s an increased risk for cardiac infection.”

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