A vaccine which could eliminate or reduce the need for surgery and antibiotics for severe gum disease has been validated by new research. A team of dental scientists at the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of Melbourne, Australia has been working on a vaccine for chronic periodontitis for the past 15 years. Clinical trials on periodontitis patients could potentially begin in 2018.
Moderate to severe periodontitis is very common and is associated with diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and certain cancers. It destroys gum tissue and bone supporting teeth, leading to tooth loss.
The findings of the study, published in NPJ Vaccines, represent analysis of the vaccine’s effectiveness by collaborating groups based in Melbourne and at Cambridge, USA.
The vaccine targets enzymes produced by the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, to trigger an immune response. This response produces antibodies that neutralise the pathogen’s destructive toxins.
P. gingivalis is known as a keystone pathogen, which means it has the potential to distort the balance of microorganisms in dental plaque, causing disease.
CEO of the Oral Health CRC, Melbourne, Eric Reynolds AO said it was hoped the vaccine would substantially reduce tissue destruction in patients harbouring P. gingivalis.
He said: “We currently treat periodontitis with professional cleaning, sometimes involving surgery and antibiotic regimes. These methods are helpful, but in many cases the bacterium re-establishes in the dental plaque, causing a microbiological imbalance so the disease continues … We hold high hopes for this vaccine to improve quality of life for millions of people”.