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Further studies on the link between oral bacteria and pregnancy complications underway

By Dental Tribune International
July 14, 2013

CLEVELAND, USA: A dental research project at Case Western Reserve University has received a $1.58 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to continue its investigation into the link between certain oral bacteria and complications of pregnancy, such as stillbirth, postbirth sepsis and premature birth.

The new four-year grant was received by Dr. Yiping W. Han, associate professor of periodontics at the university's School of Dental Medicine, who has been researching Fusobacterium, an oral bacterium that contributes to several human diseases, including periodontal diseases, and its subspecies for decades.

According to Han, two of the five subspecies can cause diseases in other parts of the body when they enter the bloodstream. "We are interested in why more of some species are found in the uterus and the placenta, but others never leave the mouth," she said.

In another study published in the June issue of the Journal of Dental Research, Han and her team found that certain oral bacteria complicate systemic infections and inflammation, including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer, respiratory tract infections, and organ inflammation and abscesses. In addition, the professor discovered that oral bacteria are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. For example, she was able to link the bacteria found in a stillborn baby to plaque in the mother's mouth by using DNA tracking.

As many of these bacteria cannot be found with conventional culture testing of amniotic fluid or blood, Han hopes that the new studies will help to identify and properly treat the bacteria that spread to extraoral sites in the body in order to prevent diseases and save lives.

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