New breakthroughs on the oral immune system could soon lead to personalized dental health care. Researchers noted that the bacterial immune system and its respective viruses can be tracked in individuals over time, which means that scientists could eventually create a specialized treatment plan for each dental patient based on differing factors in each person’s immune system.
Researchers have only recently begun studying the differences within entire viral and bacterial communities, and this focus on oral bacteria could help dentists create specific prevention plans for each patient based on bacterial patterns toward potential tooth decay.
Resistance to Viruses
An article from Medical News Today entitled “Tracing Microbes Between Individuals Towards Personalized Oral Health Care” explains the significance of these changes:
A strategy for monitoring the interaction between bacterial communities and viruses is to sequence specific bacterial DNA elements that confer acquired immunity against viral attack, called clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs). Bacteria integrate foreign DNA from encountered pathogens into “spacers” between the repeats, using the spacers to later recognize and respond to the attacker.
That sounds complicated, but essentially,the bacterial DNA elements become resistant to different viruses over time. The bacteria in the mouth gradually use DNA from outside pathogens, placing them in the repeats as “spacers.” The next time it encounters those pathogens, they recognize them and are able to respond appropriately. Until now, scientists didn’t realize how significant this process would be.
Researchers took saliva samples from 4 healthy persons over the course of 17 months, noting bacterial changes and CRISPR sequences. They found that many sequences stayed the same, but the rate of change (approximately 1/3) was much higher than they expected. These findings suggest that the process of developing resistance to new viruses occurs at least daily.
These changes can be traced in each person, and some scientists believe that this could soon become an essential part of each person’s routine dental and health care. They may even be able to track bacteria passed between individuals. Dentists could evaluate each patient’s microbial community in the mouth and prescribe treatment based on these findings in addition to their usual methods of observation.
Scientists from several California universities contributed to this study. These include the University of California, San Diego; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, San Francisco; and the Stanford University School of Medicine.