Researchers from Ohio State University have sequenced the genome of a bacterium closely related to periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia in order to better assess the role of bacterial genetics in the progression of disease.
The new bacterium, currently named Tannerella BU063, is related to T. forsythia but has some key differences on the genetic level. “Interestingly,” the researchers wrote, “although the two species share over half of their genes and occupy the same habitat in the oral cavity there are some major differences in their genomes.”
One important distinction is that T. BU063 is missing some of the genes that make T. forsythia pathogenic – information that has opened doors for future research into the DNA of bacteria:
This search has identified candidate genes that can be studied further, including one gene cluster that appears to be found in a large number of genomes from periodontitis-associated organisms
Only recently has periodontal disease been identified and treated on a microbial level. This study shows that there is even more to discover about what makes these bugs tick and how to eradicate them. As the researchers concluded, “[T]he oral microbiome is a more complex ecosystem than revealed by species-level analysis.”
There is much we still don’t know about oral bacteria, as around 60% of oral flora have not been successfully cultured and identified. With the Human Genome Project and now the Microbiome Project, we are getting closer and closer to further understanding of the oral microbiome and how it affects systemic disease.