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NYU to Study Link Between Severe Caries and Bacteria

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – New York University scientists have received $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to use whole genome sequencing to study strains of Lactobacilli bacteria (Lb) to identify which ones are involved in severe dental caries in children, NYU said Thursday.

A connection between Lb and severe early childhood caries, which can destroy most of a child's teeth by the age of three, has been known for nearly a century, but it is still unknown just which of the 140 Lb species causes the disease.

Principal investigators Page Caufield, a professor of cariology and comprehensive care, and Yihong Li, a professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, will analyze several hundred bacteria samples from children with severe early childhood caries and from their parents, as well as from caries-free children and their parents.

The sequencing will be conducted by investigators at University College in Ireland and at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the samples will be collected at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. The NYU team also will collaborate with experts on bacterial genome evolution at the American Museum of Natural History to identify sequences that are common to children with severe caries and their parents.

Caufield and Li in earlier studies identified virulent strains of Streptoccocus mutans, another bacteria type associated with severe early childhood caries, and showed that they are transmitted from mother to infant during intimate contact.

“The findings from our new study, as well as the earlier research on Streptoccocus mutans, will help propel the development of a diagnostic test that dentists can administer chairside to identify those at risk,” Caufield said in a statement.