What is Infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis is a form of endocarditis. It is an inflammation of the inner tissues of the heart, the endocardium (such as its valves). It is caused by infectious agents, or pathogens, which are usually bacterial but other organisms can also be responsible.
The valves of the heart do not receive any dedicated blood supply. As a result, defensive immune system mechanisms (such as white blood cells) cannot directly reach the valves via the bloodstream. If an organism (such as bacteria) attaches to a valve surface and forms a vegetation, the host's immune response is blunted. The lack of blood supply to the valves also has implications for treatment, since drugs also have difficulty reaching the infected area.
Normally, blood flows smoothly through these valves. If they have been damaged - from rheumatic fever, for example - the risk of bacterial attachment is increased.