They find out how the bacteria that cause periodontitis attack us

Between 5 and 20% of adults and up to 40% of older people in Europe have periodontitisaccording to figures from the World Health Organization.

This gum disease can cause loss of dental parts. In fact, about a 30% of the European population between 65 and 74 years old has lost all his teeth because of this.

The main cause of periodontitis is the bacteria P. gingivalis and to date there is no treatment that eliminates it completely because it is a chronic disease.

scientists from CSIC at the Institute of Molecular Biology of Barcelona have deciphered the mechanism that would explain why this bacterium can wreak such havoc on gum health.

A great discovery that could be used to develop oral antiseptics specific against this bacterium.

The results of the study have been published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

oral microbiota

The human oral microbiota is composed of more than 6 billion bacteria over 770 species and most contribute to the maintenance of homeostasis and good oral health.

In fact, oral bacteria form the second most complex microbiome of the body after the intestine.

However, a inadequate diet and an insufficient hygiene they can lead to alterations in the composition of the microbiome and promote the excessive growth of pathogenic and opportunistic species.

When “bad” bacteria outnumber beneficial species and take over the oral microbiome, caries and periodontitiswhich, in the most severe cases, leads to chronic inflammation and tissue destruction.

And one of those bad bacteria is Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis)main cause of periodontitis.

How P. gingivalis works

This bad bacteria of the oral microbiome can act in a very virulent against the gums. The mechanism is as follows:

  • There P. gingivalis has a secretion system to send protein (they are called cargo proteins) to the surrounding environment, which in this case is the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth.
  • These proteins produced by the P. gingivalis they make the bacteria more virulent, leading to inflammation of the gums, tissue destruction and, ultimately, tooth loss in periodontitis severe.
  • But the node The problem is not these cargo proteins themselves, but a enzyme which also generates this secretion system. There enzyme his name is Published and this is what makes bacteria P. gingivalis take full advantage of the protein to do damage.

Well, what CSIC researchers have deciphered for the first time is exactly the structure of this enzyme.

They did this in collaboration with the Jagiellonian University of Krakow (Poland), the University of Thessaly (Greece) and the University of Louisville (USA).

Discovery opens the door to development antiseptics to destroy this bacteria.

What alters the oral microbiome

Each person’s oral microbiome changes throughout life. Shortly after birth, a baby’s mouth is colonized by S. salivarius. With the appearance of teeth, microorganisms such as S. sanguinis and S. mutans emerge. And these microorganisms continue increasing as the person grows.

This perfectly balanced oral microbiome protects the mouth from disease, but it can be disrupted for many reasons:

  • A diet high in sugars modifies the pH of the environment and promotes the formation of dental plaque. Reducing sugar intake is important to decrease the risk of bacteria feeding on carbohydrates and increasing the risk of cavities and periodontitis.
  • Lack of hydration it unbalances the oral microbiota since the production of saliva decreases, which has a cleaning effect in the mouth.
  • gastroesophageal reflux. In these patients, the mouth can be invaded by pathogens such as Helicobacter pylori, which also promotes the appearance of periodontitis.
  • Abuse of antibiotics it can reduce good bacteria in the mouth (just like in the gut) and lead to imbalances in the oral microbimome.
  • Of course, poor dental hygiene it also alters the oral microbiome. It is essential to brush your teeth 3 times a day with fluoride toothpaste.


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