When you breathe in or ingest pathogens from the environment, the mucus in your saliva is the immune system's first response to prevent further infection in the body. Scientists from Lund University in Sweden are interested in pinpointing the immune functions of mucus in order to mimick the mechanism while developing new drugs.
Although there are white blood cells in mucus fighting infection all over the body, the oral mucosa was discovered to be exceptionally efficient at killing bacteria.
"The mucus in the mouth causes the white blood cells to throw out a ‘net’ that traps bacteria," Dr. Ole Sørensen explained.
Sørensen and his colleagues from Lund published their study on oral mucosa at the end of October in Blood. They examined the ability of white blood cells in mucus, like neutrophils, to capture and kill bacteria better than any other lymphocyte in the body. They also looked at the impact of defective saliva on vulnerability to oral infection. They found that patients with "disordered homeostasis in the oral cavity" were more likely to become infected with aphthous stomatitis and Behçet’s disease.
Aphthous stomatitis, also known as canker sores, is a common illness causing small ulcers in the mouth, lips, cheeks, and tongue (University of Rochester Medical Center). Although the exact cause of this condition is still unknown, Lund scientists are working to find a direct link between aphthous stomatitis and the dynamic of the oral mucosa.
Behçet’s disease is a less common, more severe autoinflammatory disorder causing oral ulcers, genital ulcers, inflammation of the eye, skin lesions, and arthritis. Lund scientists are also trying to discover the connection between this syndrome and the state of the oral mucosa.
Watch the following Discovery News video to learn more about canker sores and how they differ from cold sores.
Source: Lund University