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Biology—Lurking mouth microbes

ORNL’s Karissa Cross prepares a sample to cultivate Desulfobulbus oralis, a novel oral microbe present in adults with advanced gum disease. Cross, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate, led the lab’s D. oralis study under ORNL’s Mircea Podar’s guidance. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

April 2, 2018 - An Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led team cultivated a novel oral microbe, Desulfobulbus oralis, present in adults with periodontitis,an advanced gum disease that affects nearly half of all adults worldwide. By integrating genomic and metabolic techniques with classical microbiology, the team combined single-cell genomic data with microbiological tricks—including using a complex “soup” made by other oral microbes—to grow the bacterium in the lab. By isolating D. oralis, they could better understand how the microbes may have adapted and evolved to become dependent on other oral bacteria, as well as how losing or acquiring genes can make them friend or foe. “Oral microbiology is a mature discipline, yet there are still many species that lurk in our mouths that have yet to be cultured and characterized,” said ORNL’s Mircea Podar. “Discovering new information about the so-called ‘dark microbiota’ could be used to develop future alternative treatments and possible prevention of periodontitis, tooth decay and other oral diseases.” Their finding was published in mBio.