Scientists in Australia have potentially developed the world’s first vaccine against periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that affects some 47.2% of adults age 30 and over.
The team of researchers at the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre at Melbourne University have spent the better part of 15 years developing the vaccine, which works by triggering an immune response against the bacteriumPorphyromonas gingivalis. The enzymes created by the bacteria are believed to be a key factor in causing gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.
“We currently treat periodontitis with professional cleaning sometimes involving surgery and antibiotic regimes,” said CEO of the Oral Health CRC, Eric Reynolds. “These methods are helpful, but in many cases the bacterium re-establishes in the dental plaque causing a microbiological imbalance so the disease continues,” leading to irreversible decay.
An estimated 80% of the entire U.S. population has some form of mild to severe gum disease, with the odds of infection often increasing with age. It often leads to gum decay, plaque buildup, and tooth loss. It is also linked with other chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and certain cancers. A preventative vaccine against periodontal infections could save many patients from the pain and costs of treatment once the disease becomes too far gone.
“Periodontitis is widespread and destructive,” Reynolds said. “We hold high hopes for this vaccine to improve quality of life for millions of people.”
The vaccine’s effectiveness was recently validated in the medical journal NPJ Vaccines. Clinical trials for the vaccine could begin on actual patients as early as 2018.