Oral disease – rapid among HIV sufferers

US researchers investigating what affects oral disease among HIV sufferers have pinpointed changes in mouth bacteria.

Although it is known that oral disease progresses rapidly among people who have HIV but the process is poorly understood.


Through a one-year grant of almost $330,000 from the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of Florida are trying to find out the role of various pathogens in the progression of oral disease among people infected with HIV.


Gary Wang, an assistant professor of infectious diseases in the UF College of Medicine, and principal investigator of the study, saud: ‘The hypothesis is that suppression of the immune system by HIV contributes to changes in the oral biota, which then contributes to oral disease.’


‘The whole idea is to be able to understand the microbial signature early – before patients develop disease. That could lead to development of novel molecular tools and biomarkers to screen for disease.”

Estimates vary widely, but up to two-thirds of people who have HIV also have periodontitis, according to a literature review in the journal Periodontology 2000.

For patients whose immune system is compromised, periodontitis further contributes to poor health by hindering proper nutrition. It also affects the ability to derive pleasure from eating.

About 500 to 700 different species of oral microorganisms have been identified, and one person can have up to 100 different species in the mouth.


In most cases those bacteria do no harm, and may in fact provide benefit by crowding out disease-causing bacteria. Communities of bacteria thrive in a thin film on the teeth, with different types of organisms clustering together into neighborhoods based on mutual benefit.

When the immune response is compromised, as in HIV-infected patients, a shift in the composition of micro-organism communities can allow opportunistic pathogens to grow freely.

The UF team will examine those changes through a pilot study of HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals who have chronic periodontitis.

The work is being carried out in collaboration with the Periodontal Disease Research Center, whose director is study co-investigator Nils Ingvar Magnusson, a professor of oral biology in the College of Dentistry.

The researchers will use sophisticated DNA sequencing techniques and bioinformatics to classify bacteria and identify differences between those in the two groups of patients.


They also plan to track how bacterial composition in the mouth changes as people’s immune status changes.



University of Florida Health Science Center

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