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J Periodontal Res. 2001 Apr;36(2):114-23.

Intraoral distribution of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans in young adults with minimal periodontal disease.

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School of Dental Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


The aim of the present study was to investigate the intraoral distribution of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans in young adults with minor signs of periodontal disease but harboring the organisms in the oral cavity. 17 healthy volunteers, 20 to 27 years of age, participated. Samples from mucosal surfaces of the oro-pharyngeal cavity and saliva (n = 221) as well as subgingival plaque from every tooth (n =477) were selectively cultivated for A. actinomycetemcomitans. Species identity and presence of the leukotoxin encoding gene, ltxA, were checked by multiplex polymerase chain reaction. Moreover, the leukotoxin promoter region was analyzed. No isolate harbored a 530 bp deletion in the promoter region of the leukotoxin gene, signaling minimally toxic strains. 42.1 +/- 30.4% extracrevicular and 34.4 +/- 29.5% subgingival samples were culture-positive. In extracrevicular samples, the organism could easily be recovered from cheek mucosa (62%), saliva (59%) and the palatal tonsils (41%). Mean log-transformed numbers of A. actinomycetecomitans colony forming units (CFU/ml) in culture-positive material ranged between 1.8 from the hard palate and 2.3 from 10 microl saliva. The highest prevalence in subgingival plaque was observed at maxillary 3rd molars (55%) followed by maxillary lateral incisors (50%) and mandibular 3rd molars (41%). Mean log-transformed counts of CFU/ml ranged between 2.2 at maxillary 3rd molars and 3.4 at upper central incisors. When adjusted for jaw, site and tooth type, the odds of isolating higher numbers of the organism were increased with every mm probing depth by a factor of 1.35 (p <0.05). The odds ratio for bleeding on probing was 1.38. Thus, in this young adult population with minor periodontal disease, A. actinomyetemcomitans was mainly associated with some deviation from gingival health. Of concern might be a minority of subjects (29%) with an extremely wide distribution of the organism in the oral cavity.

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