Scientists have pieced together sections of DNA from 12 individual cells to sequence the genome of a bacterium known to live in healthy human mouths; the achievement reinforces a theory that genes in closely related bacteria could be culprits behind a severe form of gum disease and allows researchers to focus on those potentially harmful bacteria.
Honing in On the Bacteria behind Gum Disease
The research, in which scientists from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry sequenced the oral bacterium, is significant for two reasons:
- Periodontal disease affects nearly half of all Americans over age 30; untreated gum disease can weaken the bone structure that supports your teeth and further contribute to cardiovascular problems and other health issues
- More than 60 percent of the bacteria found in the human mouth, including bacteria thought to contribute to gum disease, cannot be grown in a laboratory; this means that these bacteria cannot be systematically classified or studied
The genome in question, Tannerella BU063, is similar to the pathogen Tannerella forsythia, a bacteria associated with the severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis. The newly sequenced bacterium is among those that had not previously been successfully grown in a culture.
The Most Wanted List
The research was a contribution to the Human Microbiome Project, a federal effort to improve knowledge about the microbes that affect human health and disease. This particular genome had been identified as one of the project’s “most wanted.”
The sequencing of Tannerella BU063 allows scientists to further target the genes that are likely behind periodontal disease for additional study. “One of the tantalizing things about this study was the ability to do random searches of other bacteria whose levels are higher in periodontitis,” said Clifford Beall, research assistant professor of oral biology at OSU and lead author of the study, the findings of which were published in the journal PLOS One.
Periodontitis results when infection of the gums spreads beyond the gums to damage other structures that support the teeth; this allows pockets to form between the teeth and gums that contain different types of bacteria. Researchers hope the sequencing provides further clues into why certain bacteria are pathogenic and why the bacteria that appear in periodontitis vary so widely.
If you or your child suffers from symptoms of gum disease, or if you’re seeking a compassionate dentist in the Colorado Springs area, please contact The Studio for Exceptional Dentistry online or call our office at 709-602-2614 to schedule your appointment with Dr Andrew Hall.