New Mouthwash Very Successful in Targeting Streptococcus Mutans
Many well known brands of commercial mouthwashes, as well as a wide range of other antibiotics that are commonly prescribed, are actually broad-spectrum (non-selective), meaning that their antibacterial properties do not discriminate between different types of bacteria.
Broad-spectrum antibacterial agents kill both benign and harmful pathogenic bacteria which – in the long term – can be quite damaging, since they disrupt the optimal ecological balance in our bodies, increasing our susceptibility to bacterial, parasitic and yeast infections.
In our mouths in particular, there needs to be a balance in the oral flora which includes many types of micro-organisms, in different proportions.
Our mouth contains hundreds of bacteria, and each type has different properties. There are around 800 species of bacteria that have been identified.
We have a number of good bacteria which will promote good oral health and we also have a number of harmful bacteria which are responsible for some nasty oral infections, conditions and diseases, as well as bad breath.
There is still no absolute certainty as to what types of bacteria are the major culprits that cause halitosis (bad breath)
. Many studies have shown that the overall presence of bacteria in people with or without bad breath are very similar. However, many other studies have actually shown that there is a change in the numbers of specific types of bacteria in people who suffer from halitosis compared to those who don’t.
All of us have the types of bacteria that cause bad breath in our mouths, but those who suffer from chronic halitosis have got them in a much higher proportion. Being able to target each type of bacteria individually, with products that are selective, as opposed to broad-spectrum ones, would be extremely helpful to many bad breath sufferers, for instance.
However, there are many different types of bad breath: people who suffer from halitosis that stems mainly from periodontal disease will have a high proportion of certain types of harmful bacteria in their mouths, wile those whose halitosis stems from chronic fetid tonsillitis, for instance, will have a high proportion of other types of harmful bacteria.
Streptococcus mutans is a type of bad bacteria which is very good at producing acids that erode enamel from the tooth surface, which often progresses into dental caries. Hence this bacterium is considered to be the principal cause of cavities and tooth decay, which are common causes of bad breath.
Usually, if halitosis is caused purely by caries, a visit or two to the dentist should suffice to get rid of the bad breath problem as well. However, what if caries could be avoided completely, not only by having optimal oral hygiene and diet, but also with the help of a mouthwash?
Wenyuan Shi – chair of the oral biology section at the UCLA School of Dentistry – has developed a new antimicrobial technology (STAMP), which has been used in a new mouthwash that has been tested in a recent clinical study. In this clinical trial, individual subjects were asked to rinse their mouths with the experimental mouthwash, just once. Twelve subjects experienced a nearly complete elimination of the population of Streptococcus mutans over the entire four-day testing period.
"With this new antimicrobial technology, we have the prospect of actually wiping out tooth decay in our lifetime," said Shi, who noted that his studies could lay the foundation for the development of other specific antimicrobials to treat other conditions or diseases.
Dr Shi’s new STAMP drug, which has been developed after nearly a decade of research, acts as a kind of "smart bomb", by killing only the harmful bacteria and keeping the healthy strains alive. In addition, the effects of this new antimicrobial agent last for extended periods of time.
"The work conducted by Dr. Shi’s laboratory will help transform the concept of targeted antimicrobial therapy into a reality," said Dr. No-Hee Park – dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry.
This is very exciting news, as it paves the way to a new field of study whereby specific bacteria that cause disease in the mouth can be targeted individually. While each type of bad breath is caused by a proliferation of different types of harmful bacteria in the mouth (in different proportions), it could provide effective relief for those who are not able to treat the underlying causes of their halitosis via other methods, or as a temporary remedy for those awaiting treatment.
For instance, Solobacterium moorei
is a type of anaerobic bacterium which has been linked to certain types of bad breath. It produces hydrogen sulphide, a gas that smells like rotten eggs. In the next few years, STAMP technology could be used to target this bacterium as well as other strains of bacteria which can be liked to the production of oral malodours. Let’s hope more research is on the way and that – even though a universal halitosis cure
is not feasible – different types of selective antimicrobial mouthwashes can be developed so that, at least temporarily, bad breath sufferers can minimise their symptoms and improve the quality of their lifes.
"Within the repertoire of antibiotics available to a prescribing clinician, the majority affect a broad range of microorganisms, including the normal flora. The ecological disruption resulting from antibiotic treatment frequently results in secondary infections or other negative clinical consequences. To address this problem, our laboratory has recently developed a new class of pathogen-selective molecules, called specifically (or selectively) targeted antimicrobial peptides (STAMPs) […]. In the current study, we focused on achieving targeted killing of Streptococcus mutans, a cavity-causing bacterium that resides in a multispecies microbial community (dental plaque). […] We discovered that STAMPs constructed with peptides derived from CSP were potent against S. mutans grown in liquid or biofilm states but did not affect other oral streptococci tested. […] The STAMPs presented here are capable of eliminating S. mutans from multispecies biofilms without affecting closely related noncariogenic oral streptococci, indicating the potential of these molecules to be developed into “probiotic” antibiotics which could selectively eliminate pathogens while preserving the protective benefits of a healthy normal flora."