The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime #1 Seaweed toothpaste ‘to stop tooth decay’

In the second book of the semi-autobiographical series describing the progress of an Edinburgh medical graduate, Colin Douglas describes his hero, David Campbell’s, involvement with medical research. The book’s title is The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime and the cynic in me always remembers it when I read headlines like this one from the BBC website.

From vaccines through polymer coating and rival bacteria I have seen false dawns, hopes and ultimate disappointments come and go in the treatment of both dental caries and gum disease.. So the advice remains the same limit your consumption sugar and clean all the surfaces of your teeth. No change since my graduation in 1978 when as final year students we were told (as I recall) by Professor Bertram Cohen that caries could be controlled by a vaccine in our practising lifetime.

Nevertheless I am always interested in new research particularly when it comes from Newcastle – and having shared a flat with a marine biology student at one point I was attracted by the involvement of that department. I wish everyone involved the best of luck but I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s the article:

Adding enzymes from seaweed microbes to toothpaste and mouthwash could provide better protection against tooth decay, a team of UK scientists have said.
Researchers at Newcastle University had been studying Bacillus licheniformis to see if it could clean ships’ hulls.
But the scientists now believe it could protect the areas between teeth where plaque can gather despite brushing.
Their lab tests suggest the microbe’s enzyme cuts through plaque, stripping it of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Dr Nick Jakubovics, of the university’s school of dental sciences, said: “Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonise an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors.
“Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria – but that’s not always effective – which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.
“We found this enzyme can remove some of these undesirable bacteria from plaque.”
Plaque is made up of lots of different decaying bacteria.
When bacterial cells die, the DNA inside them leaks out and makes a biofilm that sticks to the teeth.
Instead of removing the plaque entirely, Dr Jakubovics believes the treatment could strip away the harmful bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, that cause tooth decay.
“Ultimately we hope to harness this power into a paste, mouthwash or denture-cleaning solution.”
He said more studies are needed to show the technique works and is safe before any products could be brought to market.
He is presenting the latest findings to a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology, the organisation that is funding the research along with the Newcastle Healthcare Charity.

There’s an interview with Dr Jakubovics, conducted by John Humphries on the R4 Today programme, via the BBC link.

 

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