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article imageEssential Science: Gum bacteria implicated in Alzheimer's disease

By Tim Sandle     Apr 22, 2019 in Science
The bacteria that inhabit the mouth, and especially the gums, if imbalanced can lead to some species dominating others. In these circumstances, there may be a connection with diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to a new study.
The connection has come about after microbiologists traced the path of bacterial toxins from the mouth to the brain and other tissues. The toxins examined may have connection with various diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and aspiration pneumonia.
The connection arises because of evidence from bacteria isolated in brain samples taken from people with Alzheimer's disease. To assess the effect, the researchers ran experiments on mice to demonstrate how key bacteria can find their way from the oral cavity to the brain.
The bacterium of concern is Porphyromonas gingivalis. This bacterium is the causative agent of the is the disease periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease. P. gingivalis is an asaccharolytic (an organism that is incapable of breaking down carbohydrates for energy) Gram-negative anaerobic bacterium that produces major virulence factors known as gingipains.
In addition, P. gingivalis can trigger benign bacteria in the mouth to change their activities and further increase the immune response.
Periodontitis is not one single disease; it refers to a is a set of inflammatory conditions affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. With the disease, the gums can pull away from the tooth. In addition, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen and even fall out. The aetiology of the disease is complex involving the presence of pathogenic bacteria found in dental plaque evoking host immune response.
The implications of the new new findings is that good dental hygiene is of the utmost importance. This is noted by lead researcher Jan Potempa, who states: “People with genetic risk factors that make them susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis or Alzheimer's disease should be extremely concerned with preventing gum disease.”
Digital x-rays coming to dentistry. Photograph taken at the Wellcome Exhibition  in London.
Digital x-rays coming to dentistry. Photograph taken at the Wellcome Exhibition, in London.
Earlier research shows that some people are genetically susceptible to gum disease. This means that even where people practice good oral care habits, some individuals may be more likely to develop periodontal disease. This can be shown through genetic testing.
The new study expanded upon this earlier work and drew a more conclusive connection. The research was a collaborative effort between researchers from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, U.S., and Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
Examining test samples from Alzheimer’s patients, the researchers discovered that P. gingivalis was more common. It was also noted that the presence of the bacterium’s primary toxins, known as gingipains, were also prevalent.
In support of these findings, an experimental drug that blocks gingipains, COR388, is currently in a Phase I clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is formed of compound that can block enzymes required by P. gingivalis. The aim is to interrupt the role that this bacterium potentially plays in advancing Alzheimer’s and other similar neurodegenerative diseases.
The new findings were presented at the April 2109 meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, which was held during the 2019 Experimental Biology conference, at Orlando, Florida, U.S.
Essential Science
Giant Chestnut tree on the east side of Milwaukee
This giant Chestnut tree in a neighbor's backyard has survived disease and lightning strikes. Last year a windstorm brought one of it's limbs (huge as a tree all by it self) down.
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we learnt how technologists have developed a transparent wood that has grabbed attention as a future material for green construction. The material is also remarkably energy efficient, in terms of its ability to release heat, thereby lowering energy costs.
The week before the topic was the wonder material borophene, which has properties beyond those of graphene and has technologists excited in terms of future state electronics.
More about Alzheimer's disease, oral bacteria, Bacteria, Gum disease, Medical
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