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J Clin Microbiol. 2003 Feb;41(2):558-63.

Diversity of bacterial populations on the tongue dorsa of patients with halitosis and healthy patients.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


The primary purpose of the present study was to compare the microbial profiles of the tongue dorsa of healthy subjects and subjects with halitosis by using culture-independent molecular methods. Our overall goal was to determine the bacterial diversity on the surface of the tongue dorsum as part of our ongoing efforts to identify all cultivable and not-yet-cultivated species of the oral cavity. Tongue dorsum scrapings were analyzed from healthy subjects with no complaints of halitosis and subjects with halitosis, defined as an organoleptic score of 2 or more and volatile sulfur compound levels greater than 200 ppb. 16S rRNA genes from DNA isolated from tongue dorsum scrapings were amplified by PCR with universally conserved bacterial primers and cloned into Escherichia coli. Typically, 50 to 100 clones were analyzed from each subject. Fifty-one strains isolated from the tongue dorsa of healthy subjects were also analyzed. Partial sequences of approximately 500 bases of cloned inserts from the 16S rRNA genes of isolates were compared with sequences of known species or phylotypes to determine species identity or closest relatives. Nearly complete sequences of about 1,500 bases were obtained for potentially novel species or phylotypes. In an analysis of approximately 750 clones, 92 different bacterial species were identified. About half of the clones were identified as phylotypes, of which 29 were novel to the tongue microbiota. Fifty-one of the 92 species or phylotypes were detected in more than one subject. Those species most associated with healthy subjects were Streptococcus salivarius, Rothia mucilaginosa, and an uncharacterized species of Eubacterium (strain FTB41). Streptococcus salivarius was the predominant species in healthy subjects, as it represented 12 to 40% of the total clones analyzed from each healthy subject. Overall, the predominant microbiota on the tongue dorsa of healthy subjects was different from that on the tongue dorsa of subjects with halitosis. Those species most associated with halitosis were Atopobium parvulum, a phylotype (clone BS095) of Dialister, Eubacterium sulci, a phylotype (clone DR034) of the uncultivated phylum TM7, Solobacterium moorei, and a phylotype (clone BW009) of STREPTOCOCCUS: On the basis of our ongoing efforts to obtain full 16S rRNA sequences for all cultivable and not-yet-cultivated species that colonize the oral cavity, there are now over 600 species.

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