Public Release: 

Scientists launch human oral microbiome database

Tool offers the most complete resource on microbiology of the mouth

Forsyth Institute

Boston -- Scientists from The Forsyth Institute and King's College, London have released a new tool for the research community, the Human Oral Microbiome Database, which provides descriptions of the approximately 600 microbes (bacteria) that are most commonly found in people's mouths. Most bacteria living in the mouth are thought to be important for maintaining the health of teeth and gums, as well as for general human health. A smaller number are potentially disease causing. The database, which can be found at, will help scientists studying the role of specific microbes in human health and disease.

The Human Oral Microbiome Database links several types of information on these microbes to a consistent naming system. Within the database, descriptions of the microbes, their metabolism, and their ability to cause disease will be linked to information on their DNA and proteins, as well as to the scientific literature. The database also allows scientists to examine the genomes of the microorganisms that have had their DNA sequenced. The database can be utilized immediately, and will continue to expand over the next three years.

The research team that developed the Human Oral Microbiome Database includes Forsyth scientists Drs. Floyd Dewhirst, Tsute Chen, Jacques Izard, Anne Tanner, Bruce Paster; and from King's College London, Dr. William Wade. "We believe that the Human Oral Microbiome Database will be very useful, not only to the dental research community, but also to the general medical and infectious disease communities," said Dr. Dewhirst. "We hope that the information in this Database can serve as a model for the gut, skin and vaginal databases for the Human Microbiome Project."

This project is supported by National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, (NIDCR). In December 2007, NIH launched the Human Microbiome Project that initially will sequence all of the genes, or genomes, of 600 representative microorganisms sampled from microbial communities in the mouth, skin, digestive tract, nose, and female urogenital tract. Additional studies are either under way or under development.

Among those already well under way is a NIDCR-supported project to compile a full catalogue of the complete genomes of all oral microbes. It has generated a tremendous amount of data and, coupled with the decades of more traditional studies of oral bacteria, the need for a comprehensive, user-friendly database has become a priority.



Approximately 600 different species of bacteria have been identified from the human mouth, although any one person may have only a third of this number. The majority of these species are compatible with oral health, but a minority have been shown to be associated with diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease. Forty-four percent of these species have been cultured and named by microbiologists. Another 11 percent have been cultured, but are not yet named. Forty-five percent have not yet been cultured and are known from molecular studies that recognize the DNA fingerprints of these uncultivated species. Investigators are currently examining the link between certain oral bacteria and systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and preterm delivery. There is currently a major initiative at the NIH, called the Human Microbiome Project, to determine the roles of microbes in human health and disease. Studying these interactions should lead to new ways to monitor health status and lead to new methods to prevent or treat human diseases.

Creation of the Human Oral Microbiome Database has been supported by contract U01 DE016937 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

The Forsyth Institute is the world's leading independent organization dedicated to scientific research and education in oral, craniofacial and related biomedical sciences.

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