Making the case for a dental caries vaccine

March 12, 2004

Honolulu, Hawaii...Dental caries, the disease that causes tooth decay, is infectious, and the mutans streptococci bacteria have long been identified as the primary disease-causing agents. Thanks to numerous scientific advances, tooth decay is not as rampant as it once was, but it is still five times more common in children than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. And about 25% of the population (in the United States) carries about 80% of the disease burden. So dental caries is still a serious problem, especially for those in the population who are very young, very old, economically disadvantaged, chronically ill, or institutionalized.

For decades, a dental vaccine has been the topic of mucosal immunology and infectious disease research. Host mucosal immunity in pre-clinical and clinical studies has indicated that this immune system can interfere with the processes causing dental caries.

In a symposium during the 82nd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, five scientists will make a case for the scientific and moral imperative of a vaccine to prevent caries in disadvantaged populations, in the United States and other industrialized countries as well as in developing countries throughout the world. In disadvantaged populations especially, a vaccine is the most plausible and desirable method of preventing disease. Indeed, vaccination is a very significant method of combating an infectious disease whose importance has been recognized in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine.

The moral and social imperative of a vaccine as a true public health measure will be discussed, particularly with regard to its impact on vulnerable populations.
-end-
This is the summary of a symposium entitled "The Scientific and Moral Imperative for a Dental Caries Vaccine", to be presented at 8 a.m. in Room 317-B of the Hawaii Convention Center during the 82nd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.

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