Newly discovered bacterial species can have a major role in causing tooth decay

Collaborating researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry, the Adams School of Dentistry and the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health discovered that a Selenomonas sputum May play a major role in causing tooth decay.

Scientists have long considered another type of bacteria, the plaque-forming, acid-producing bacteria. Streptococcus mutans, As the leading cause of tooth decay – also known as dental caries.However, in a study published on May 22 nature communicationsresearchers from Penn Dental Medicine and the University of North Carolina show Salmonella sputum, Previously associated only with gum disease, now can serve as an important partner Streptococcus mutansgreatly enhancing its cavity making capabilities.

This is an unexpected finding that provides us with new insights into caries development, highlights potential targets for future cavity prevention, and reveals novel mechanisms of bacterial biofilm formation that may be relevant to other clinical settings.

Hyun (Michel) Koo DDS, Ph.D., study co-senior author, professor of orthodontics, pediatrics, and community oral health, and co-director of the Center for Innovation and Precision Dentistry in Dental Medicine at Penn State

The study's other two co-senior authors are Kimon Divaris, PhD, DDS, a professor at UNC Adams School of Dentistry and Di Wu, PhD, an associate professor at UNC Adams School and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“This is a perfect example of collaborative science that would not be possible without the complementary expertise of many groups, individual researchers and interns,” Divaris said.

Dental caries is considered the most common chronic disease among children and adults in the United States and worldwide.when it appears Streptococcus mutans Brushing and other oral care methods do not adequately remove other acid-producing bacteria and eventually form a protective biofilm or “plaque” on the teeth. Within plaque, these bacteria consume sugar in drinks or food, converting it into acid. If plaque remains for too long, these acids can begin to eat away at the enamel of the affected teeth, eventually forming cavities.

In past studies of the bacterial content of dental plaque, scientists have discovered a variety of other species in addition to the following bacteria. Streptococcus mutans.These include the following species selenium door, an “anaerobic”, non-aerobic bacterium that is more commonly found beneath the gums in cases of gum disease. But this new study is the first to pinpoint the cavity-causing effects of specific substances. selenium door species.

UNC researchers collected plaque samples from the teeth of 300 children aged 3 to 5 years, half of whom had cavities, and analyzed the samples using a battery of advanced tests, with critical help from Koo's lab . Tests include sequencing bacterial gene activity in samples, analyzing the biological pathways suggested by this bacterial activity, and even directly performing microscopic imaging. The researchers then confirmed their findings in a separate group of 116 plaque samples from children aged 3 to 5 years.

The data shows that although Salmonella sputum It is just one of several dental caries-related bacterial species found in plaque Streptococcus mutansand does not cause dental caries itself, it has an amazing ability to work together Streptococcus mutans Promotes the process of dental caries.

Streptococcus mutans It is known to use available sugars to build sticky structures called glucans, which are part of the protective plaque environment.Researchers observed Salmonella sputum, It has small appendages that can move across surfaces and may be captured by these glucans. Once trapped, Salmonella sputum Proliferate rapidly, using its own cells to create a honeycomb “superstructure” to encapsulate and protect Streptococcus mutans. As the researchers showed using animal models, the result of this unexpected partnership is a greatly increased and concentrated acid production that significantly worsens the severity of dental caries.

The findings reveal more complex microbial interactions than thought and provide a better understanding of how tooth decay develops in children, an understanding that could lead to better ways to prevent cavities, Koo said.

“Destroying these protections Salmonella sputum Using a superstructure of specific enzymes or a more precise and efficient brushing method may be one approach,” Koo said.

The researchers now plan to study in more detail how this anaerobically mobile bacteria ends up in the aerobic environment of the tooth surface.

“The phenomenon of bacteria from one environment entering a new environment and interacting with the bacteria living there, building these extraordinary superstructures, should be of widespread interest to microbiologists,” Koo said.


University of Pennsylvania

Journal reference:

For H., et al. (2023). Selenomonas pyogenes acts as a pathogen mediating spatial structure and biofilm virulence in early childhood caries. nature communications.

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