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Oral bacteria might be responsible for migraines

Millions of people worldwide suffer from migraines. The condition might be associated with bacteria in the oral cavity. (Photograph: Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Wed. 2 November 2016


LA JOLLA, Calif., USA: Headaches and migraines in particular are widespread diseases, affecting the well-being and quality of life of millions of people worldwide. New research has shown that people suffering from migraines have significantly more microbes in their mouth with the ability to modify nitrates than do people who do not get migraine headaches.

For the study, researchers sequenced bacteria in 172 oral samples and 1,996 fecal samples and found that bacterial species were found in different abundances between migraineurs and nonmigraineurs. A further analysis of the oral samples showed that genes that encode nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide-related enzymes were significantly more abundant in migraineurs.

Nitrate-containing compounds have been identified as common headache triggers. They can be found in foods, such as processed meats and green leafy vegetables, and in certain medicines. Oral bacteria can reduce nitrates to nitrites, and when circulating in the blood, these nitrites can then be converted to nitric oxide under certain conditions.

Although the results indicate that there is a potential connection between nitrate-reducing bacteria in the oral cavity and migraines, further investigations are needed to verify whether these bacteria are a cause or result of migraines, or are indirectly linked in some other way, the researchers said.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, about 1 billion people worldwide (38 million in the U.S. alone) suffer from migraine. It is thus the third most prevalent disease in the world. However, more than half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed, as the vast majority do not seek medical care.

The study, titled “Migraines are correlated with higher levels of nitrate-, nitrite-, and nitric oxide-reducing oral microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort,” was published online on Oct. 18 in mSystems, an open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology. It was conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

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