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 oral bacteria to produce destructive
dental plaque. This plaque, made up of bacteria, saliva and food debris,
is a major cause of bleeding gums and gum disease. Later in life this
can lead to periodontitis and loss of teeth. It is this interaction
between different oral pathogens 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 bacterial communities
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
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.