As researchers continue to delve into the mysteries of oral health, more discoveries continue to be made regarding the causes of gum diseases and other chronic oral conditions. Now a new study may help to shed light on the role “microbial dark matter” on the development of periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – and other diseases, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Even though the human body contain over 10 times the amount of bacterial cells than human cells, researchers estimate that approximately half of the bacteria are hard to reproduce for scientific study, which explains the use of the term “microbial dark matter” to describe these substances, explained researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles who conducted the study. A long unanswered question has been whether these types of bacteria contribute to chronic disease in the body.
One such bacterial type researchers have shown interest in exploring – candidate phylum TM7 – has been thought to play a role in the development of mucosal diseases due to the bacteria’s prevalence in individuals suffering from periodontitis. However, despite the presence of the bacteria, the TM7 phylum has been difficult to reproduce for study.
To solve this dilemma, researchers at University of Washington School of Dentistry, UCLA School of Dentistry, and the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, CA formed a joint research collective in an effort to attempt to cultivate TM7x, a type of TM7 found in the mouth.
By endeavoring into this of field of study, researchers discovered the first known proof of a signaling interaction between TM7 and another bacterium, Actinomyces odontolyticus, which has a known association with oral inflammation.
Once researchers were able to sequence and recreate TM7 they could finally determine how the bacteria is able to thrive in the human body. Researchers believe this may be the first time a concrete example of a parasitic long-term attachment between two different types of bacteria, where one species survives on the surface of another species, leaching needed nutrients from that bacteria before finally attacking its host.
The researchers compared TM7x with other strains of bacteria, but only Actinomyces odontolyticus was able to establish a physical association with TM7x. This leads researchers to believe that TM7x and Actinomyces odontolyticus may have evolutionarily evolved together.
Bacteria that cannot be grown in labs for study represent a “final frontier” for dental microbiologists. This latest study provides an important breakthrough in how bacteria is tested which could lead to further advances in the prevention and treatment of gum disease and other long-term oral disease.
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