Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacterium, fungus team up to cause virulent tooth decay in toddlers

Date:
March 12, 2014
Source:
American Society for Microbiology
Summary:
Early childhood caries, a highly aggressive and painful form of tooth decay that frequently occurs in preschool children, especially from backgrounds of poverty, may result from a nefarious partnership between a bacterium and a fungus, according to new research. The resulting tooth decay can be so severe that treatment frequently requires surgery -- in the operating room.

This figure (a cross section of the biofilm) depicts S. mutans microcolonies (in green) together with C. albicans (in blue) all surrounded and enmeshed in extracellular polysaccharides matrix (in red).
Credit: Hyun (Michel) Koo, University of Pennsylvania

Early childhood caries, a highly aggressive and painful form of tooth decay that frequently occurs in preschool children, especially from backgrounds of poverty, may result from a nefarious partnership between a bacterium and a fungus, according to a paper published ahead of print in the journal Infection and Immunity.

The resulting tooth decay can be so severe that treatment frequently requires surgery -- in the operating room, says corresponding author Hyun (Michel) Koo of the University of Pennsylvania.

"Our data will certainly open the way to test agents to prevent this disease, and even more intriguing, the possibility of preventing children from acquiring this infection," says Koo.

In the study the investigators showed that infection by S. mutans and C. albicans together doubled the number of cavities, and boosted their severity several-fold in rats.

Koo, of U. Penn's School of Dental Medicine, has spent 15 years studying how microbes construct the biofilms, also known as plaque, that have plagued teeth since H. sapiens invented agriculture, bringing large quantities of starch into the diet. (Caries are common in Neolithic skeletons, but virtually absent from our Paleolithic ancestors.)

The bacterium Streptococcus mutans has long been assumed to be the sole microbial culprit, but Koo and collaborators -- as well as other investigators -- noticed that the fungus, Candida albicans, was almost always present in plaque from cases of early childhood caries. S. mutans sticks to the surfaces of teeth by converting sugars to a sticky glue-like material called extracellular polysaccharide (EPS.) In the mouth, Candida adheres mainly to cheek and tongue, but had rarely been seen in dental plaque.

"However, we and others noticed that Candida was very frequently observed in plaque from patients who have early childhood caries," says Koo. "We were puzzled! Candida usually does not associate with S. mutans, nor does it colonize teeth very effectively."

The investigators discovered that the "exoenzyme" which S. mutans uses to react with sugar to produce EPS, also enables Candida to produce a glue-like polymer in the presence of sugar, allowing it to adhere to teeth, and to bind S. mutans, two abilities it otherwise lacks. Under these circumstances, the fungus now contributes the bulk of the plaque.

"The combination of the two organisms led to a greatly enhanced production of the glue-like polymer, drastically boosting the ability of the bacterium and the fungus to colonize the teeth, increasing the bulk of the biofilms and the density of the infection," says Koo. All that led to greatly elevated accumulation next to the teeth of the acid that dissolves enamel, leading to cavity formation.

"This represents a truly unique physical interaction where a bacterially-produced product attaches to and functions on the surface of an organism from another kingdom, converting this normally innocuous (with respect to teeth) fungus into a fierce stimulator of cariogenic biofilm formation," says Koo. That observation, he says, supports his hypothesis that early childhood caries in toddlers results from infection by both organisms, with frequent exposure to sucrose.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. L. Falsetta, M. I. Klein, P. M. Colonne, K. Scott-Anne, S. Gregoire, C.-H. Pai, M. Gonzalez, G. Watson, D. J. Krysan, W. H. Bowen, H. Koo. Symbiotic relationship between Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans synergizes the virulence of plaque-biofilms in vivo. Infection and Immunity, 2014; DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00087-14

Cite This Page:

American Society for Microbiology. "Bacterium, fungus team up to cause virulent tooth decay in toddlers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312132625.htm>.
American Society for Microbiology. (2014, March 12). Bacterium, fungus team up to cause virulent tooth decay in toddlers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312132625.htm
American Society for Microbiology. "Bacterium, fungus team up to cause virulent tooth decay in toddlers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312132625.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

AFP (Aug. 21, 2014) Two American missionaries who were sickened with Ebola while working in Liberia and were treated with an experimental drug are doing better and have left the hospital, doctors say on August 21, 2014. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins