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Scientists get their teeth into new heart research

29 October 2001

Scientists get their teeth into new heart research

THE British Heart Foundation (BHF) has awarded more than �140,000 to researchers in Birmingham to help develop a new test to detect and diagnose heart patients who may be at risk from a potentially fatal condition known as endocarditis.�

The joint research will be carried out by Prof Tom Elliott (Clinical Microbiology) and Prof Bill Littler (Cardiology) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Dr Peter Lambert and Dr Sue Lang at Aston, providing a unique team of investigators.�

The team is launching a three year study to evaluate and improve a new blood test which can quickly confirm a diagnosis of the infection.�

Rapid diagnosis of the condition is vital so that the necessary antibiotics can be administered immediately, therefore protecting against damage to the heart.

People who suffer from valvular disease (e.g. an abnormal or replaced heart valve) or those born with a heart defect (such as a hole in the heart) are at most risk from developing endocarditis, especially following dental treatment where organisms from the mouth can enter the blood stream. There are many symptoms - including breathlessness, fever and rashes - which are often present for several weeks before the real cause is diagnosed.

Lead researcher, Prof Tom Elliott, says; "It is not always possible for doctors to detect the bacteria that causes endocarditis making it a sometimes difficult condition to diagnose and treat. We need to develop more effective ways of identifying the bacteria so that we can diagnose the condition more rapidly and tailor the treatments as quickly as possible."

Around 200 patients (predominantly from the Birmingham area) will be involved in the research project. The researchers will analyse blood samples from the patients, taken before and after surgery, and will continue to monitor and examine them over regular intervals.

The research team hopes the study will lead to new, improved blood tests which will allow a more accurate method for recognising the many types of bacteria that cause around the majority of cases of infective endocarditis.

Gerry Thomas, BHF Regional Director for Birmingham, comments; "It is great that such important heart research is taking place in the West Midlands. Currently, many patients who have already gone through the ordeal of heart disease are at still at risk of secondary infection but this new research could bring us a pioneering new way of protecting people from further damage."

Many heart patients are usually advised to take antibiotics before undergoing dental or surgical procedures to help protect against the risk of infection. However, antibiotics are not necessary for patients with coronary heart disease or undergoing a bypass operation.

ENDS

For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

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