UB Dental Researchers Use Dna Tests to Fight Gum Disease

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: December 20, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- DNA test results, which are more frequently being used as evidence in criminal and paternity cases, are aiding dental researchers at the University at Buffalo in their fight against periodontal disease.

"To more effectively treat the patient, it may be necessary to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics for all family members who are infected, even though they may not have periodontitis," says Joseph Zambon, D.D.S., Ph.D., UB professor of oral biology and periodontology.

"The bacteria that cause periodontal disease don't appear to be contagious, but they may be transmissible between people in very close contact, such as family members," he says.

A UB pilot study of 15 families, reported in Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, suggests that the pathogenic bacteria implicated in a patient's disease should be eliminated in all family members, using specific antibiotics on a short-term basis.

In the study, Zambon and his colleagues used the DNA RFLP test to identify strains of certain bacteria within the oral cavity of the patients and their families.

The UB team found that parents and children often share the same kinds of periodontal pathogen.

Several families are currently being treated with short-term antibiotic therapy to eliminate the infection from the entire family, as well as the patient with periodontal disease.

Teenagers and adults with the culprit organism are given 250 mg. of tetracycline four times a day for two to three weeks.

Children in the household who harbor the specific organism found in the patient receive penicillin.

Zambon; UB clinical instructor Violet Haraszthy, D.D.S., and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are conducting a more extensive family study to verify the results of the pilot study.