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J Clin Periodontol. 1988 Mar;15(3):145-55.

The role of black-pigmented Bacteroides in human oral infections.

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Department of Oral Microbiology, Vrije Universitèit, ACTA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Today, 10 black-pigmented Bacteroides (BPB) species are recognized. The majority of these species can be isolated from the oral cavity. BPB species are involved in anaerobic infections of oral and non-oral sites. In the oral cavity, BPB species are associated with gingivitis, periodontitis, endodontal infections and odontogenic abscesses. Cultural studies suggest a specific role of the various BPB species in the different types of infection. Bacteroides gingivalis is closely correlated with destructive periodontitis in adults as well as in juveniles. Bacteroides intermedius seems to be less specific since it is found in gingivitis, periodontitis, endodontal infections and odontogenic abscesses. The recently described Bacteroides endodontalis is closely associated with endodontal infections and odontogenic abscesses of endodontal origin. There are indications that these periodontopathic BPB species are only present in the oral cavity of subjects suffering from periodontal breakdown, being absent on the mucosal surfaces of subjects without periodontal breakdown. BPB species associated with healthy oral conditions are Bacteroides melaninogenicus, Bacteroides denticola and Bacteroides loescheii. There are indications that these BPB species are part of the normal indigenous oral microflora. Many studies in the past have documented the pathogenic potential and virulence of BPB species. This virulence can be explained by the large numbers of virulence factors demonstrated in this group of micro-organisms. Among others, the proteolytic activity seems to be one of the most important features. Several artificial substrates as well as numerous biological proteins are degraded. These include anti-inflammatory proteins such as alpha-2-macroglobulin, alpha-1-antitrypsin, C3 and C5 complement factors and immunoglobulins. B. gingivalis is by far the most proteolytic species, followed by B. endodontalis. Like other bacteria, the lipopolysaccharide of B. gingivalis has shown to be active in bone resorption in vitro and is capable in stimulating interleukin-1 production in human peripheral monocytes. Based on the well documented association with periodontal disease and the possession of relevant virulence factors, BPB species must be considered as important micro-organisms in the etiology of oral infections. B. gingivalis seems to be the most pathogenic and virulent species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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