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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012;6(3):e1556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001556. Epub 2012 Mar 6.

Bacterial diversity in oral samples of children in niger with acute noma, acute necrotizing gingivitis, and healthy controls.

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Institut für Angewandte Immunologie, Zuchwil, Switzerland.



Noma is a gangrenous disease that leads to severe disfigurement of the face with high morbidity and mortality, but its etiology remains unknown. Young children in developing countries are almost exclusively affected. The purpose of the study was to record and compare bacterial diversity in oral samples from children with or without acute noma or acute necrotizing gingivitis from a defined geographical region in Niger by culture-independent molecular methods.


Gingival samples from 23 healthy children, nine children with acute necrotizing gingivitis, and 23 children with acute noma (both healthy and diseased oral sites) were amplified using "universal" PCR primers for the 16 S rRNA gene and pooled according to category (noma, healthy, or acute necrotizing gingivitis), gender, and site status (diseased or control site). Seven libraries were generated. A total of 1237 partial 16 S rRNA sequences representing 339 bacterial species or phylotypes at a 98-99% identity level were obtained. Analysis of bacterial composition and frequency showed that diseased (noma or acute necrotizing gingivitis) and healthy site bacterial communities are composed of similar bacteria, but differ in the prevalence of a limited group of phylotypes. Large increases in counts of Prevotella intermedia and members of the Peptostreptococcus genus are associated with disease. In contrast, no clear-cut differences were found between noma and non-noma libraries.


Similarities between acute necrotizing gingivitis and noma samples support the hypothesis that the disease could evolve from acute necrotizing gingivitis in certain children for reasons still to be elucidated. This study revealed oral microbiological patterns associated with noma and acute necrotizing gingivitis, but no evidence was found for a specific infection-triggering agent.

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