“It’s an amazing phenomenon.”
A team of dentists and scientists from Newcastle University are developing a new product from a marine microbe to protect dentures, teeth and gums from bacteria in the mouth.
They are using an enzyme isolated from a marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis found on the surface of seaweed which they were originally researching for the purpose of cleaning the hulls of ships.
But presenting at the Society for Applied Microbiology Summer conference today, they’ll explain how they are beginning to realise its potential in a host of medical environments – including teeth cleaning.
While toothpastes are fairly effective there are still hard to reach areas leaving the bacteria in plaque able to erode the enamel of teeth leading to fillings. Dr Nicholas Jakubovics of Newcastle University’sSchool of Dental Sciences believes better products can be made using the enzyme which will offer longer and more effective protection.
“Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors,” explained Dr Jakubovics. “Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria – but that’s not always effective – which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.
“Work in a test tube has shown that this enzyme can cut through the plaque or layer of bacteria and we want to harness this power into a paste, mouthwash or denture cleaning solution.”
When under threat, bacteria shield themselves in a slimy protective barrier. This slimy layer, known as a biofilm, is made up of bacteria held together by a web of extracellular DNA which adheres the bacteria to each other and to a solid surface – in this case in the plaque around the teeth and gums. The biofilm protects the bacteria from attack by brushing, chemicals or even antibiotics.
However, when studying the marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis, Newcastle University scientists led by Professor Grant Burgess found that when the bacteria want to move on, they release an enzyme which breaks down the external DNA, breaking up the biofilm and releasing the bacteria from the web.
Professor Burgess said: “It’s an amazing phenomenon. The enzyme breaks up and removes the bacteria present in plaque and importantly, it can prevent the build up of plaque too.
via Newcastle University
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