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The Sleeping Monsters in your Mouth

The oral cavity is wet, warm and nutrient rich. These characteristics allow microorganisms to flourish -- however they are normally kept in check by the host. Oral diseases like periodontitis are mediated by bacteria. Curiously, it is not a single bacterium that is the cause of disease, but a shift in the abundances of bacterial species in the mouth. It is almost as if, under certain conditions, the microbiome morphs into a superorganism with the sole purpose of destroying tissue and bone. In the scientific paper “Microbial Signatures of Oral Dysbiosis, Periodontitis and Edentulism Revealed by Gene Meter Methodology”, published in the Journal of Microbiological Methods, the authors used 454 Sequencing and Gene Meter technology to precisely quantitate the abundances of bacteria in patients with one of four oral conditions; periodontitis, caries, edentulism, and oral health. The microbial compositions of the disease states were compared to the health state and certain bacterial species were found to have significantly higher abundances in certain disease states. Our results suggest that high abundances of these bacteria are signatures of real oral problems. It was found that 17 microbial genera were classified as signatures of dysbiosis, 13 bacterial genera were classified as signatures of periodontitis, and, 14 genera were classified as signatures of edentulism. The signatures could be used, individually or in combination, to assess the clinical status of a patient (e.g., evaluating treatments such as antibiotic therapies). We also compared the output of the same patient samples analyzed by two different technologies. We found high false negatives (45%) for next-generation-sequencing results and low false positives (7%) for Gene Meter results.

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