Preventing bacteria from falling in with the wrong crowd could help stop gum disease

Feb 08, 2012
Twisting and turning spirals: cells of Treponema denticola are stained with a fluorescent dye and observed at 4,000x magnification. Credit: Caroline Bamford

Stripping some mouth bacteria of their access key to gangs of other pathogenic oral bacteria could help prevent gum disease and tooth loss. The study, published in the journal Microbiology suggests that this bacterial access key could be a drug target for people who are at high risk of developing gum disease.

Oral bacteria called Treponema denticola frequently gang up in communities with other pathogenic to produce destructive . This plaque, made up of bacteria, saliva and food debris, is a major cause of bleeding gums and . Later in life this can lead to periodontitis and loss of teeth. It is this interaction between different that is thought to be crucial to the development of periodontal disease.

Researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered that a molecule on the surface of Treponema called CTLP acts as the key pass that grants the bacterium access to the community, by allowing it to latch onto other oral bacteria. Once incorporated, CTLP in conjunction with other bacterial molecules can start to wreak havoc by inhibiting blood clotting (leading to continued bleeding of the gums) and causing .

Professor Howard Jenkinson, who led the study, said that periodontal disease and bleeding gums are common ailments, affecting many groups of people, including the elderly, pregnant women and diabetics. "Devising new means to control these infections requires deeper understanding of the microbes involved, their interactions, and how they are able to become incorporated into dental plaque," he said.

The study shows that CTLP could be a good target from which novel therapies could be developed. "CTLP gives Treponema access to other periodontal communities, allowing the bacteria to grow and survive. Inhibiting CTLP would deny Treponema access to the responsible for dental plaque, which in turn would reduce bleeding gums and slow down the onset of periodontal disease and tooth loss." The team is now working to find a compound that will inhibit CTLP. "If a drug could be developed to target this factor, it could be used in people who are at higher risk from developing gum disease," explained Professor Jenkinson.

The latest study backs up previous work in Professor Jenkinson's lab on the workings of harmful oral bacteria. "The overarching message from our latest study as well as previous work is that regular tooth brushing and maintaining a healthy mouth is vitally important to keep harmful mouth bacteria at bay," he stressed.

Explore further: Genomes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes sequenced

Provided by Society for General Microbiology

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Jailbreak' bacteria can trigger heart disease

Sep 06, 2010

Plaque-causing bacteria can jailbreak from the mouth into the bloodstream and increase your risk of heart attack says a scientist at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn meeting in Nottingham.

Floss your teeth -- on the double!

Aug 06, 2008

In dental offices all over the world, patients are often told they are not flossing enough or instructed to floss more. As the old saying goes, you only need to floss the teeth you want to keep. After all, not flossing regularly ...

Periodontal diseases are blind to age

Jun 12, 2007

Two new studies in the June issue of the Journal of Periodontology (JOP) suggest that periodontal diseases are a threat to women of all ages due to hormonal fluctuations that occur at various stages of their lives.

New research aims to eliminate Streptococcus infections

Mar 06, 2008

Professor Howard Jenkinson in the Department of Oral & Dental Science (Dental School) has been awarded a grant of £285,000 from The Wellcome Trust to research ways to combat diseases caused by Streptococcus ...

Recommended for you

Genomes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes sequenced

18 hours ago

Nora Besansky, O'Hara Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the University's Eck Institute for Global Health, has led an international team of scientists in sequencing ...

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

Nov 26, 2014

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

Nov 26, 2014

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.