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Researchers receive NIDCR grant to study lactobacilli genome

January 16, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

Dr. Caulfield
New York—A research team at the New York University College of Dentistry has been awarded a $2.2 million grant to sequence the genome of lactobacilli strains to look for a relationship to severe early childhood caries.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research granted NYU dental school the funds over four years to identify which of the 140 known strains of lactobacilli are most destructive in their contribution to childhood caries.

Principal investigators are dentists Dr. Page Caufield, an NYU professor of cariology and comprehensive care and a microbiologist, and Dr. Yihong Li, an NYU professor of basic science and craniofacial biology.

R. Dwayne Lunsford, a microbiologist and an NIDCR grant administrator, said that Dr. Caufield is "pretty much the main player" in investigating lactobacilli strains.

Dr. Caufield's intention is that someday his team's finding will yield clinical applications. Many dentists, he said, already swab for lactobacillus, but those tests don't tell them very much.

Dr. Li
"A kid could conceivably have just finished eating yogurt, and he'll have a mouth full of lactobacillus and you could do the test: you wouldn't be able to make a differentiation," Dr. Caufield said. "But if you knew exactly which genes in the lactobacillus genome are involved in tooth decay, you could make some predictions. You could easily make some chairside diagnostic tests and say, 'Hey, you've got the good lactobacillus', or 'You've got the bad ones.'"

Working at Bellevue Hospital in New York, the dental school said that the research team will collect several hundred bacteria samples from young children with severe caries and their parents and also from caries-free young children and their parents.

Co-investigators at the University College in Ireland and at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom will sequence the genome of the various strains of lactobacilli in the samples.