Oral Microbiota and Bacterial Disease Program

The Oral Microbiota and Bacterial Disease Program supports extramural basic and translational research on the role of oral microbes in health and disease. The program supports research in four broad scientific areas:

  • Biofilms and Microbial Ecology
  • Microbial Polyomics
  • Microbial Pathogenesis
  • Prevention and Treatment Strategies that provide the basis for rapid development of knowledge of the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral infectious diseases.

NIDCR encourages research on understanding infections that emerge within the oral cavity based on the capacity of microbial pathogens to adapt to the unique oral environment. Research relevant to this area includes studies on microbial biofilms and ecology including on the formation, structure, modulation and eradication of oral biofilms, host status changes that affect the emergence of infectious agents, horizontal gene exchange that affects genetic diversity and antibiotic resistance, microbial stress responses, interactions that increase organism virulence, and environmental selection of new genetic strains and variants. Research directed towards understanding the role of cell-cell interactions and differential gene expression in the ecology of complex communities is also appropriate.

Polyomic analyses, including genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics, that identify, characterize, and quantify biological molecules involved in structure, function, and system dynamics that promise to yield a comprehensive picture of the structure and function of oral microorganisms and host tissues are appropriate to this Program. Systems level analyses that may elucidate previously unrecognized mechanisms that can be targeted by drug therapies and immunogenic components ideal for vaccine development also fit into this Program. Polyomic investigations into uncultivable organisms and the technologies and systems to culture and study these organisms are supported under this area.

Projects on microbial pathogenesis apply the latest cellular, molecular and biochemical techniques to identify and characterize specific microbial products or components involved in virulence and disease pathogenesis. Virulence mechanisms of interest include, but are not limited to: the capacity to adhere to, colonize and invade host tissues; to initiate host cell death, growth or cytokine production; to induce inflammation; to produce / release factors that destroy host tissue; or to evade or destroy the host defense response. Studies that characterize virulence factors using in vivo expression technology and novel animal model systems are appropriate; as is research into unraveling the complex interactions involved in mixed microbial infections. Studies that delineate the biological factors and mechanisms involved in increased susceptibility to infection induced by risk factors such as tobacco use and co-morbidities, such as diabetes, are supported in this area.

NIDCR supports projects that examine or develop improved treatment and prevention methods and strategies for addressing dental caries and periodontitis using the principles of infectious disease. Research on specific approaches to selectively reduce the establishment of pathogenic flora without altering the normal commensal flora fits within this area as does research focused on improvements in diagnosis of pathogens or pathogenic states that may contribute to significant advances in early intervention of disease. Anti-infective treatment development and optimization is supported by this area.

Last Reviewed
September 2020