A gentler strategy for avoiding childhood dental decay
The combination of a carbohydrate-heavy diet and poor oral hygiene can leave children with early childhood caries (ECC), a severe form of dental decay that can have a lasting impact on their oral and overall health.
A few years ago, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine found that the dental plaque that gives rise to ECC is composed of both a bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans, and a fungus, Candida albicans. The two form a sticky symbiosis, known scientifically as a biofilm, that becomes extremely virulent and difficult to displace.
A new study from the group offers a strategy for disrupting this biofilm by targeting the yeast-bacterial interactions that make ECC plaques so intractable. In contrast to some current treatments for ECC, this treatment uses an enzyme specific to the bonds that exist between microbes.
The study was published in mBio and senior author, Geelsu Hwang said: “We thought this could be a new way of approaching the problem of ECCs that would intervene in the synergistic interaction between bacteria and yeast. This offers us another tool for disrupting this virulent biofilm”.
The work builds off findings from a 2017 paper by Hwang and colleagues, including Hyun (Michel) Koo of Penn Dental Medicine, which found that molecules call mannans on the Candida cell wall bound tightly to an enzyme secreted by S. mutans, glycosyltransferases (Gftb). In addition to facilitating the cross-kingdom binding, Gftb also contributes to the stubbornness of dental biofilms by manufacturing gluelike polymers called glucans in the presence of sugars.