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Presence of antibody signals healthier teeth and gingivae

An antibody found in people with good oral health could become the first tool for assessing patients' probable response to periodontal disease treatment, said researchers in an online article published at the Public Library of Science.

The antibody is to a protein called HtpG, which is made by Porphyromonas gingivalis.

Researchers led by Dennis E. Lopatin, MS, PhD, senior associate dean, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays with cloned HtpG and peptide antigens. They discovered that HtpG antibodies were present in much lower amounts in people with periodontal disease and in much higher concentrations in people with healthier teeth and gingivae. Typically, antibodies are elevated in people with disease, because they help fight the disease.

Researchers also found that people with the higher levels of HtpG antibodies responded better to periodontal treatment. This finding could lead to early interventional therapy to prevent periodontal disease from advancing or even starting.

"We're in a position now where we have a potential tool that gives insight as to how the patient will respond to treatment," Dr. Lopatin said. "From a public health standpoint, it's very important to identify those people who not only need therapy but will actually respond to a specific type of therapy.

"We want to understand how unique this mechanism is in other types of chronic infections," Dr. Lopatin continued. "We'd like to think it's not a mechanism unique to just this pathogen, if it is a more common mechanism, it makes it even more interesting."

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.