Edlund A, Santiago-Rodriguez TM, Boehm TK, Pride DT

Bacteriophage and their potential roles in the human oral cavity.

Journal of oral microbiology. 2015-01-01; 7.27423.

The human oral cavity provides the perfect portal of entry for viruses and bacteria in the environment to access new hosts. Hence, the oral cavity is one of the most densely populated habitats of the human body containing some 6 billion bacteria and potentially 35 times that many viruses. The role of these viral communities remains unclear; however, many are bacteriophage that may have active roles in shaping the ecology of oral bacterial communities. Other implications for the presence of such vast oral phage communities include accelerating the molecular diversity of their bacterial hosts as both host and phage mutate to gain evolutionary advantages. Additional roles include the acquisitions of new gene functions through lysogenic conversions that may provide selective advantages to host bacteria in response to antibiotics or other types of disturbances, and protection of the human host from invading pathogens by binding to and preventing pathogens from crossing oral mucosal barriers. Recent evidence suggests that phage may be more involved in periodontal diseases than were previously thought, as their compositions in the subgingival crevice in moderate to severe periodontitis are known to be significantly altered. However, it is unclear to what extent they contribute to dysbiosis or the transition of the microbial community into a state promoting oral disease. Bacteriophage communities are distinct in saliva compared to sub- and supragingival areas, suggesting that different oral biogeographic niches have unique phage ecology shaping their bacterial biota. In this review, we summarize what is known about phage communities in the oral cavity, the possible contributions of phage in shaping oral bacterial ecology, and the risks to public health oral phage may pose through their potential to spread antibiotic resistance gene functions to close contacts.

PMID: 25861745