Recently presented research provides compelling evidence that children acquire the bacterium most frequently associated with dental cavities, from familial and non-familial sources.
Children typically have more than one strain of the bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, and most share at least one strain with their mother or another family member. However, 72% of children in this study had one or more strains not found in participating household family members, indicating these strains likely came from outside the home.
“While the prevailing theory on S. mutans transmission suggests mother-to-child transmission as the primary route of infection, in this study 40 percent of children shared no strains with their mothers,” said Stephanie Momeni from the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA. Some 22% of the children shared 37 strains only with another child in the household, demonstrating another dimension to inter-familial transmission.
“Of the children that did not share strains with any household members, 33% were found to have only one isolate, indicating these strains to be rare or transient,” said Momeni. This is important since it suggests that approximately one-third of strains analysed may not be clinically relevant and can confound the search for strains related to the disease
- mutans is the primary bacterium most frequently associated with dental cavities and is considered to be transferred from other humans.
“While the data supports that S. mutans is often acquired through mother-to-child interactions, the current study illuminates the importance of child-to-child acquisition,” said Momeni.