NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists from the Forsyth Institute and Kings College, London today announced a new research tool for those interested in mouth microbes: the Human Oral Microbiome Database.
The HOMD is intended to be a resource for those interested in understanding the role of microbes in human health and disease, particularly with respect to the oral environment. The online database will include descriptions of the bacteria, if available, such as their taxonomy, phenotypic characteristics, prevalence, and disease associations.
In addition, it contains tools for helping researchers identify bacteria based on 16S rRNA sequence data and analyze genomic information. The HOMD itself houses some genomic data and more will be added as it becomes available through the NIH’s Human Microbiome Project, which began last December.
There are roughly 600 potential bacterial species in the human mouth (though it varies by host, and some people have about a third of that many species). The bugs are potentially important not only in terms of tooth and gum health but general health as well. For instance, some oral bacteria have been linked to cardiovascular health, stroke, and preterm delivery.
Despite the hundreds of oral species recognized by their 16S rRNA sequences, most are unnamed and yet-uncharacterized. The HOMD hopes to remedy that — it presents a provisional naming scheme for the hitherto unknown species.
Taxonomic descriptions of the 600 or so species should be complete sometime around the end of next year, according to the site, though the database itself is expected to continue expanding for at least three years. The project is supported by the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research.
“We believe that the Human Oral Microbiome Database will be very useful, not only to the dental research community but also to the general medical and infectious disease communities,” Forsyth scientist Floyd Dewhirst, a member of the team behind HOMD, said in a statement. “We hope that the information in this database can serve as a model for the gut, skin, and vaginal databases for the Human Microbiome Project.”