You may not think about it often, but your mouth is a neighborhood of sorts: every surface is alive with microorganisms that are moving, competing, reproducing and dying. The good news is that the majority of these colonists coexist peacefully with humans and support a healthy oral physiology. The bad news is these microbial residents occasionally cause cavities, gum disease or colds.
So in a recent study, Stanford researchers analyzed more than 11,000 microbial gene sequences from ten individuals to better understand oral microbial communities. Their inquiry yielded 247 species, including a handful of new microbes. According to the findings, which come from the lab of David Relman, MD:
Our data indicate that there is a variety of alternative oral bacterial community structures, and a greater degree of variation in patterns of diversity, associated with oral health than previously thought. It remains to be seen what factors, e.g., human genetics or lifestyle, correlate with oral bacterial community structure.
Interestingly, some of these microbes are friendly neighbors and were often found together, whereas others just don't seem to get along and rarely occur together in any given mouth. Understanding the nature of these competitive interactions between microbes could one day be used to develop preventative dental treatments. For example:
Chronic periodontitis is one of the most common inflammatory conditions worldwide, and is associated with bacterial community structures that are distinct from those of health.
Previously: New York Times explores our amazing microbes and Researchers manipulate microbes in gut
Photo by Rainer Ebert