Skip to Main Content
Text size: SmallMediumLargeExtra-Large

Microbiology Program

Contact: Dr. R. Dwayne Lunsford, 301-827-4635,

Through the Microbiology Program in the Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch, the NIDCR supports extramural basic and translational research on the role of oral microbes in health and disease.

Four broad scientific areas provide the basis for rapid development of knowledge of the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral infectious diseases. These interrelated areas are:

  • Biofilms and Microbial Ecology
  • Microbial Genomics
  • Microbial Virulence and Disease Pathogenesis
  • Prevention and Treatment

In addition, this program encourages research that is responsive to the NIH Common Fund Initiatives.

Biofilms and Microbial Ecology

Infections 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:

  • formation and eradication of oral biofilms
  • host dietary changes that affect the emergence of infectious agents
  • horizontal gene exchange that increases genetic diversity and antibiotic resistance
  • microbial stress responses in vivo
  • stimulation of cell density-dependent gene expression
  • increased virulence of organisms through interaction with one or more avirulent organisms
  • and environmental selection of new genetic strains and variants.

Research directed towards transmission of oral microbial pathogens is central to developing public health strategies to prevent their spread.

Microbial Genomics and Proteomics

Sequence analysis of the entire genome and proteome promises to yield a comprehensive picture of the structure and function of oral microorganisms and host tissues. In this regard, genome and proteome analysis may elucidate previously unrecognized pathogenic mechanisms that can be blocked by drug therapies and immunogenic components ideal for vaccine development. In addition, data from these studies enable extensive comparisons to be made between bacterial genera and species, thereby identifying the genetic basis for virulence and ability to survive in the oral cavity. Applicants are encouraged to contact the program well in advance of preparing an application to determine Institute interest in and capacity to support a sequencing or proteomics project.

Microbial Virulence and Pathogenesis

Projects in this area apply the latest molecular and biochemical techniques to identify and characterize specific microbial products or components involved in virulence and disease pathogenesis. Virulence of a microorganism is determined by its capacity:

  • to adhere to and invade host tissues
  • to initiate host cell death, growth or cytokine production
  • to induce inflammation
  • to release factors that destroy host tissue
  • or to evade or destroy the host defense response

Studies that characterize virulence factors by using, for example, in vivo expression technology and novel animal model systems are needed, as is research on the complex interactions involved in mixed microbial infections. Studies that delineate the biological mechanisms involved in increased susceptibility to infection induced by risk factors such as tobacco use and co-morbidities, such as diabetes, are also supported by this branch.

Prevention and Treatment

Dental caries and periodontitis may be prevented or treated using the principles of infectious disease. In this regard, research is needed on specific approaches to selectively reduce the pathogenic flora without altering the normal commensal flora. Moreover, improvements in diagnosis of pathogens and pathogenesis may lead to significant advances in early intervention of disease.

Future Directions

Areas of specific need:

  • mathematical modeling
  • bioinformatics
  • molecular biology
  • genomics
  • proteomics
  • host-pathogen interactions
  • beneficial effects of commensal flora
  • improved animal and in vitro models of oral infectious disease

Program Announcements

Unsolicited or investigator-initiated applications are encouraged through routine Parent Announcements as appropriate (see:

Additional Information

For further information about the NIDCR Microbiology Program, please contact:

photo of Dr. R. Dwayne Lunsford 

R. Dwayne Lunsford, Ph.D.
Microbiology Program
Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch
Division of Extramural Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health
6701 Democracy Blvd., Room 626 (MSC 4878)
Bethesda, MD 20892-4878
*(Courier please use: MD 20817)
Telephone: (301) 827-4635
Fax: (301) 480-8319

Share This Page

GooglePlusExternal link – please review our disclaimer

LinkedInExternal link – please review our disclaimer


This page last updated: June 13, 2016