How "Dentistry’s Most Wanted" Microbes Are Helping Each Other to Hurt You

Yeasts are an oddity in the microbial world, with their highly developed nucleus and capabilities far above the primitive behavior of bacteria. They can metabolize a wide variety of different sugars, from the 6-carbon sugars of the hexose family to the disaccharides like sucrose and maltose. Some species can even grow off of alcohols and organic acids!

Many yeasts in or on our body are commensal, helping protect our skin from harmful bacteria and aiding in digestion. However, new research has emerged that the top two microorganisms of "Dentistry’s Most Wanted" are working together to form a new, more durable biofilm. Candida albicans, the yeast responsible for thrush, and Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria highly implicated in caries, are colluding to worsen early childhood caries, according to research carried out at the University of Pennsylvania.

C. albicans on its own is unable to bind to either the tooth surface or S. mutans, but mutans has a trick up its sleeve. The enzyme GftB, secreted in the presence of sugar by the bacteria, folds the sugars into glue-like polymers that interact with the outer layer of the yeast, which accelerate and enhance the process. The researchers found that 45 percent more biofilm remained in the presence of the yeast, after being subjected to shear forces equivalent to someone taking a drink of water.

These findings suggest that children, who are more susceptible to yeast colonization than adults, would benefit from a drug or rinse that would disrupt this action, and could lower rates of Early Childhood Caries over fluoride alone, especially in underprivileged communities where oral health practices are not adhered to as strictly.

University of Pennsylvania. (2017, June 20). Blocking yeast-bacteria interaction may prevent severe biofilms that cause childhood tooth decay. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 3, 2017 from

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