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Treating gum disease with oral microbiota transplants

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, about half of American adults have periodontal disease, which affects gum tissues and the bones supporting the teeth. Apparently, the prevalence of periodontal disease increases with age, with the highest prevalence for those that smoke, those living below the federal poverty level, and those with less than a high school education. Although regular maintenance can minimize periodontal disease, there is no cure. Our recent study presents a path forward to a new alternative: oral microbial transplant, which is inspired by the success of fecal transplants. The path involved finding a way to discriminate healthy oral microbiomes from unhealthy ones and finding a way to kill the bacteria in the diseased mouths to enable the healthy transplanted oral microbes to thrive and persist in the disinfected mouth of the recipient. We successfully identified the microbial signatures of subjects with periodontitis and oral health and we discovered that dilute bleach is an effective way to disinfect a recipient mouth of unhealthy microorganisms. We also found that Vitamin C is an effective way to neutralize the effects of diluted bleach prior to introduction of the healthy oral microbiota to the recipient’s mouth. With this new information, we designed an experimental plan to test the utility of oral microbiota transplants in animals. We have applied for research funding to move forward.

The article describing this research was published in the journal BMC Oral Health 15:125 on October 16, 2015. The research article is entitled: “Towards microbiome transplant as a therapy for periodontitis: an exploratory study of periodontitis microbial signature contrasted by oral health, caries and edentulism”.

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