Researchers sequence bacteria that cause tooth decay

Avatar By Karen Saltos | 1 year ago

Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in adults and children. It occurs when the bad and good bacteria in your mouth become imbalanced.

The bad bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, form tartar. Then they take the sugars you eat and ferment them into acid that causes cavities.

Bioengineers know that a second harmful bacterium, Streptococcus sobrinus, accelerates tooth decay in some individuals. However, they know very little about this microbe.

A team of Illinois Bioengineering researchers led by Assistant Professor Paul Jensen has sequenced the complete genomes of three strains of S. sobrinus. It is difficult to work with in a lab and it is not present in all humans.

“Although it is rare, S. sobrinus produces acid more quickly and is associated with the poorest clinical outcomes, especially among children,” said Jensen of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

Now that they completed the sequencing, the team is building computational models to better comprehend how the two bacteria interact and why S. sobrinus causes such powerful tooth decay when blended with S. mutans.

They have confirmed that S. sobrinus lacks complete pathways for quorum sensing. This is when bacteria can sense and react to nearby bacteria, and eventually proliferate.

The research study is groundbreaking because there was a lack of information in the field. It is surprising that in 2018 there is a species of bacteria that cause disease and no complete genome of it.