A bacteria living in the mouth could cause serious disease or even kill if it enters the bloodstream, a new study warns.
Researchers have identified the bacterium, called Streptococcus tigurinus, for the first time and found it could prove fatal if it gains entry through bleeding gums into the bloods.
Scientists carried out tests, isolating the bacterium from the blood of patients suffering from endocarditis (inflammation of the heart), meningitis and spondylodiscitis (inflammation of the spine).
They found the blood is similar to other Streptococcus strains that colonise the mouth.
The new research, published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, will allow scientists to work out how it causes disease and evaluate the threat it poses.
Dr Andrea Zbinden, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland who led the study, said: ‘Accurate identification of this bacterium is essential to be able to track its spread.