New comprehensive database details all known bacteria in human mouth

By David Robson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bacteria, Microbiology

A new, freely available database has been launched that provides
comprehensive information about the 600 known bacteria living in
the human mouth. Many of these bacteria also cause infections
in the lungs, blood and skin, so the Human Oral Microbiome Database
will be an important reference both for researchers working in the
field of oral microbiology and researchers investigating the
sources of infections throughout the human body.

The database, found at​, will detail both the phenotype and genetic information about each bacteria. The phenotype of the microbe describes information such as its aerobic or anaerobic activity, the nutrients it needs for growth and the diseases with which the microbe is associated. While some of the data is from previously published research, much of the information is the product of 10 years of research from researchers at King's College, London and The Forsyth Institute in Boston which has only just become available. "It's basically a complete list of all the bacteria known to be present in the mouth to date​," says Professor William Wade from King's College, London, who was involved in the work. "It's primarily directed to researchers in the field. Oral bacteria do cause infections at other sites, so when people are identifying bacteria in other areas, they will also be able to look it up in our database to learn more about the organism​." However, this is only the start of the project, with plans to update the database regularly as new organisms are discovered. About fifty per cent of the bacteria present in the mouth can not be cloned and genetically sequenced in a traditional manner, but scientists have now found ways around this to amplify and sequence samples, leading to new discoveries. "Almost every week we find new organisms​," says Wade. The researchers plan to update the database regularly over the next three years as new bacteria are discovered, and the database will also include information from a parallel microbiome project, the Human Microbiome Project funded by the US National Institute of Health, which plans to describe another 200 oral bacteria. The oral microbiome database may even act as a template for the other databases to follow, which will detail bacteria found in the gut, skin and vagina. "Our work predates this - we've been doing this work for ten years​," explains Wade. "It's the first microbiome to be described, so we are ahead of the game of other body sites.​" The database could also act as an important starting point for further research, which will describe the bacteria's behaviour as well as their physical characteristics. While a small proportion of the 600 bacteria studied so far are known to cause disease, many are believed to be beneficial to the health of the teeth and gums. "Our next task is to find what the bacteria are doing. We know they are mainly good bacteria, but we are now trying to look at their function - why they are there and what they are doing​," says Wade.

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