New Drugs Could Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke Risk by Targeting Gut Microbes

Non-antibiotic compounds may prevent production of gut byproduct linked to cardiovascular risk


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A potential new class of drugs may cut your risk of heart attack and stroke in an ingenious way: by targeting specific microbes in the gut.

This class of drugs is different from antibiotics, which kill gut bacteria and can lead to side effects and antibiotic resistance.

Instead, the new drugs prevent microbes from making a harmful molecule linked to heart disease, but they do so without killing the microbes. This is important because microbes are an important part of the gut flora and may be beneficial to your overall health.

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Cleveland Clinic researchers led by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, studied the effect of the new drugs. In mice, the drugs reversed two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease — increased platelet responsiveness and excessive clot formation — by lowering levels of a harmful compound called TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide). TMAO is a gut bacteria byproduct that forms during digestion.

High levels of TMAO in the blood have been shown to be a powerful tool for predicting future heart attack, stroke and death risks, according to previous research. As a result, TMAO testing is now an option for appropriate patients.

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