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Arch Oral Biol. 1995 Aug;40(8):753-63.

Bacteria in human mouths involved in the production and utilization of hydrogen peroxide.

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Department of Oral Biology and Pathology, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794-8702, USA.


Earlier studies have demonstrated that pure cultures of oral streptococci produce hydrogen peroxide but none has found any free peroxide in dental plaque or salivary sediment despite streptococci being major components of their mixed bacterial populations. The absence of peroxide in plaque and sediment could be due to the dominance of its destruction over its formation by bacterial constituents. To identify which of the oral bacteria might be involved in such a possibility, pure cultures of 27 different oral bacteria were surveyed (as well as dental plaque and sediment) for their peroxide-forming and peroxide-removing capabilities. Peroxide production was measured for each of the pure cultures by incubation with glucose at low and high substrate concentrations (2.8 and 28.0 mM) for 4 h and with the pH kept at 7.0 by a pH-stat. Removal of hydrogen peroxide was assessed in similar experiments where peroxide at 0, 29.4, 147.2 or 294.4 mM [0, 0.1, 0.5 and 1% (w/v)] replaced the glucose. Hydrogen peroxide formation was seen with only three of the bacteria tested, Streptococcus sanguis I and II (sanguis and oralis), and Strep. mitior (mitis biotype I); levels of hydrogen peroxide between 2.2 and 9.8 mM were produced when these micro-organisms were grown aerobically and 1.1 and 3.9 mM when grown anaerobically. Earlier reports indicate that such levels were usually sufficient to inhibit the growth of many plaque bacteria. The amounts formed were similar at the two glucose levels tested, suggesting that maximum peroxide production is reached at low glucose concentration. None of the three peroxide-producing organisms was able to utilize hydrogen peroxide but five of the other 24 tested, Neisseria sicca, Haemophilus segnis, H. parainfluenzae, Actinomyces viscosus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, could readily do so, as could the mixed bacteria in salivary sediment and dental plaque, both of which contain relatively high numbers of these peroxide-utilizing micro-organisms. The ability of the bacteria in plaque and sediment to degrade hydrogen peroxide was considerable and extremely rapid; peroxide removal and usually complete within the first 15 min of the incubation even when its initial level was as high as 294.4 mM. This almost overwhelming ability to remove peroxide was confirmed when peroxide-producing and -using cultures were mixed and when each of eight salivary sediments was incubated with glucose and with peroxide at concentrations up to 294.4 mM. In the glucose incubations, no hydrogen peroxide was observed, indicating dominance of microbial peroxide removers over hydrogen peroxide producers.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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