A new four-year, $1.58 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, will allow a Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine researcher to advance her work linking oral bacteria to fetal death.
The grant will support a study by Yiping Han, professor of periodontics that focuses on the prevalent oral bacteria, Fusobacterium, and several of its subspecies. The bacteria keeps the mouth's natural disease defenses working, but can also cause diseases when they enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, including the placenta, umbilical cord and fetus.
In prior research, Han has linked the bacteria to stillbirth, post-birth sepsis and premature births due to inflammation in the placenta, which is supposed to be bacteria-free.
Of Fusobacterium's five subspecies, two have mechanisms that allow them to leave the mouth and travel to other parts of the body, including the placenta.
"We are interested in why more of some subspecies are found in the uterus and placenta, but others never leave the mouth," Han said. "We have to find out why, and then stop them."
Until they have an answer, Han urges everyonenot just pregnant womento maintain their oral health.
In another recent study, Han and Xiaowei Wang, postdoctoral scholar in Han's lab, found that atherosclerotic disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer and respiratory tract infections all had oral bacteria connections.
"Almost every disease in research literature reviewed has the presence of Fusobacterium at the diseased site," Han concluded in the study.
About 700 species of bacteria live in the mouth, according to Han. Some will never leave that environment. But others, like Fusobacterium, have developed the ability to slip between cells in blood vessel walls to enter the blood and establish "colonies
|Contact: Susan Griffith|
Case Western Reserve University