MAY 08, 2018 2:28 AM PDT

Advances in the Study of the Oral Microbiome

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists are learning more about the microbes that we carry in and on our bodies. As techniques in this research field have been refined, we now know that we have about one human cell for every bacterial cell, but when you compare genes, we carry far more bacterial genes in our bodies than human genes. That means that these microbes are exerting a major influence on our health and well-being. While many studies have focused on the community of microorganisms that we carry in our guts, research on the bacteria in the rest of our bodies is starting to get more attention.

By isolating D. oralis, ORNL scientists could better understand how the microbes may have adapted and evolved to become dependent on other oral bacteria, as well as how losing or acquiring genes can make them friend or foe./ Credit: Karissa Cross/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy

The human oral microbiome database has now been established to aid in that research. Called eHOMD, for expanded Human Oral Microbiome Database, it is an index of microbial species that live in the respiratory tract and mouth. It’s freely available online. So far there are 772 species cataloged.

"The expanded HOMD will provide a wealth of information for researchers worldwide who are beginning to recognize the connection between oral health and overall wellness," said Wenyuan Shi, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer at The Forsyth Institute. 

Researchers at the Forsyth Institute recently added 80 species to eHOMD, after two years of work by several scientists.  

"The expansion of HOMD will allow scientists studying all sections of the aerodigestive system, not just the mouth, to use a carefully curated database for the bacteria that live on and in the nose, sinuses, throat, esophagus, and mouth," said Floyd Dewhirst, Senior Member of Staff. "We have brought together key information and analytical tools for scientists and physicians to use to better understand human health and disease."

A little over half of the microorganisms in eHOMD have official names, while thirteen percent have been cultivated but remain nameless, and thirty percent are uncultivated. There is a temporary naming system in place so that researchers have some standardization among unnamed strains.

In an unrelated study, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has successfully grown a new kind of bacterium found in the mouth; Desulfobulbus oralis grows in adults that have advanced gum disease, called periodontitis. 

The investigators used classical microbiology techniques along with modern genomics and metabolomics to isolate and grow D. oralis. Now it will be possible to learn more about this bacterium, providing insight into its evolution and pathogenicity.

"Oral microbiology is a mature discipline, yet there are still many species that lurk in our mouths that have yet to be cultured and characterized," said ORNL's Mircea Podar. "Discovering new information about the so-called 'dark microbiota' could be used to develop future alternative treatments and possible prevention of periodontitis, tooth decay and other oral diseases."

 

The oral microbiome is discussed (starting around 14:38) along with a few other topics in this episode of Microbial Minutes from the American Society for Microbiology.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Forsyth Institute and via International & American Associations for Dental Research

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 23, 2020
Immunology
Gene That Fuels Antibody Factories Discovered
SEP 23, 2020
Gene That Fuels Antibody Factories Discovered
Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins that play a central role in the immune system’s arsenal of germ-busting weapons. ...
OCT 17, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Imaging Innovation Set to Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis
OCT 17, 2020
Imaging Innovation Set to Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis
In osteoarthritis, the joint cartilage that cushions bones begins to break down, causing debilitating pain and stiffness ...
OCT 18, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Small RNA is Connected to Bacterial Pathogenicity
OCT 18, 2020
Small RNA is Connected to Bacterial Pathogenicity
It's thought that as much as half of the global population carries a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori in their stoma ...
OCT 29, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
OCT 29, 2020
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
The human body plays host to trillions of microbes, and many of them live in our gastrointestinal tract; these microorga ...
NOV 02, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
NOV 02, 2020
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
Cells have to be flexible and move with each other and our bodies. When cells get overstretched, they have to be able to ...
NOV 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Gut Microbes Deactivate a Common Diabetes Drug
NOV 16, 2020
How Gut Microbes Deactivate a Common Diabetes Drug
Metformin is a frequently prescribed type 2 diabetes treatment but its effects can vary significantly. In some patients ...
Loading Comments...