News archive 2008
First Oral Bacteria Database26 Mar 2008, PR 56/08
Scientists from King's and the Forsyth Institute have compiled the first comprehensive list of oral bacterial species. More than 600 species have been found and the list (the Human Oral Microbiome Database) provides descriptions of each species together with tools for analysis of their DNA.
Most bacteria living in the mouth are thought to be important for maintaining the health of teeth and gums, as well as for general human health. A smaller number are potentially disease causing. The database will help scientists studying the role of specific bacteria in human health and disease, and paves the way to constructing similar databases for other body sites such as the skin and the large intestine.
William Wade, Professor of Oral Microbiology at King’s College London comments: ‘We were astonished to find just how many bacteria live in our mouths all the time. The next goal is to understand how the majority of these bacteria benefit our health and why some cause disease'.
'We believe that the Human Oral Microbiome Database will be very useful, not only to the dental research community, but also to the general medical and infectious disease communities, said Dr. Dewhirst from the Forsyth Institute in the US. ‘We hope that the information in this Database can serve as a model for the gut, skin and vaginal databases for the Human Microbiome Project’.
The Human Oral Microbiome Database links several types of information on these bacteria to a consistent naming system. Within the database, descriptions of the bacteria, their metabolism, and their ability to cause disease will be linked to information on their DNA and proteins, as well as to the scientific literature. The database also allows scientists to examine the genomes of the bacteria that have had their DNA sequenced. The database is an ongoing project, where additional content and information are being added and updated by the database developers.
This project is supported by National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, (NIDCR). In December 2007, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Human Microbiome Project that initially will sequence all of the genes, or genomes, of 600 representative microorganisms sampled from microbial communities in the mouth, skin, digestive tract, nose, and female urogenital tract. Additional studies are either under way or under development.
Among those already well under way is a NIDCR-supported project to compile a full catalogue of the complete genomes of all oral microbes. It has generated a tremendous amount of data and, coupled with the decades of more traditional studies of oral bacteria, the need for a comprehensive, user-friendly database has become a priority.
Approximately 600 different species of bacteria have been identified from the human mouth, although any one person may have only a third of this number. The majority of these species are compatible with oral health, but a minority have been shown to be associated with diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease. Forty-four percent of these species have been cultured and named by microbiologists. Another 11 percent have been cultured, but are not yet named. Forty-five percent have not yet been cultured and are known from molecular studies that recognize the DNA fingerprints of these uncultivated species.
Investigators are currently examining the link between certain oral bacteria and systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and preterm delivery. There is currently a major initiative at the NIH, called the Human Microbiome Project, to determine the roles of microbes in human health and disease. Studying these interactions should lead to new ways to monitor health status and lead to new methods to prevent or treat human diseases.
Notes to editors
1. The Forsyth Institute
The Forsyth Institute is one of the world’s leading independent organisations dedicated to scientific research and education in oral, craniofacial and related biomedical sciences.
2. The Human Oral Microbiome Database
The Human Oral Microbiome Database can be found at www.homd.org
King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 140 countries, and 5,400 employees. King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres - more than any other university.
Kate Moore, Public Relations Officer (Health Schools)
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