Look! No fillings

September 12, 2001

Perfect teeth without the trauma of frequent trips to the dentist

TOOTHACHE and fillings could soon be a thing of the past. On both sides of the Atlantic, scientists are developing vaccines aimed at eliminating dental caries, one of the most common infectious diseases.

The vaccines target the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which damages teeth by secreting large amounts of lactic acid that erodes tooth enamel. The bug also makes a sticky substance that helps it cling to tooth surfaces, forming a furry layer called plaque.

Martin Taubman, Daniel Smith and their team at the Forsyth Institute in Boston are developing a vaccine against S. mutans that they hope can be given to children aged 18 months to 3 years. "We found that's the best time to immunise," says Taubman. If toddlers fight off the bacteria before they have fully colonised the mouth, he says, the vaccine could give lifelong protection.

Rather than attack S. mutans directly, the vaccine targets the enzyme that makes the goo it uses to stick to teeth. Deprived of this anchor, the bugs should easily be swept away when people brush their teeth.

When adults were given an oral version of the vaccine, they produced antibodies to the bacteria, Taubman found. And rats given the vaccine as a nasal spray secreted bacteria-fighting antibodies in their saliva, where it is needed to eradicate the bugs.

Julian Ma and colleagues at Guy's Hospital in London are developing a different kind of vaccine, consisting of highly purified antibodies that attack the bugs directly. Because the vaccine doesn't induce an immune response, it might not provide such long-term protection and so may have to be given every year or so. But this "passive" approach has safety advantages, because it reduces the risk of unwanted immune reactions. The vaccine is now in clinical trials.

Both groups say it may be 5 to 7 years before a caries vaccine is available. Part of the delay comes from the difficulty in funding clinical trials. Companies that make dental products, says Ma, "are not used to dealing with the idea of vaccines," while drugs companies don't see caries as a major problem.
-end-
Author: Sylvia Pagan Westphal, Boston
More at: Infection and Immunity (vol 69, p 4767)

New Scientist issue: 15 September 2001

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY AND, IF PUBLISHING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A HYPERLINK TO: http://www.newscientist.com

New Scientist

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.