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Overview

It is now recognized that 65% of all human infections are caused by biofilms, which are defined as functional communities of organisms attached to an abiotic or a biotic surface and encased in an extracellular matrix. The eco-biology of biofilms, formerly called dental plaque in the case of oral biofilms, is yet to be fully explored.  Hence the goal of the group will be to investigate the structure, function and physiology of oral plaque biofilms in health and disease. The major goals of the proposed group are to investigate the two main non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of the human kind, caries and periodontal (gum) disease caused by plaque biofilms as well as to study how bacteria and yeast species co-exist within these biofilms (i.e. inter-kingdom interactions).

Dental practitioners spend a majority of their working life managing the ravages caused by caries and periodontal disease. Similarly, oral fungal infections such as candidiasis, also caused by biofilms, are increasingly seen in the elderly and debilitated populations, which we are witnessing today due to the overall aging populations worldwide, including the Gulf regions. Hence the central, overarching theme of the Oral biofilms in Health and Disease Research Group is to investigate the functionality of oral biofilms related to caries, periodontal disease and fungal infections.  


The three sub-themes of the proposed group and areas of discovery are:  

i) Oral Candida biofilms 

Candidal biofilms are the cause of chronic, recalcitrant oral fungal infections seen in the elderly and debilitated individuals. The group will pursue oral candidal biofilm biology, including how these yeasts communicate within biofilms and develop antifungal resistance, which is a major issue of worldwide concern.

ii) Cariology, wound infections and endodontic microbiology:

Dental caries could be considered a `wound` on a tooth surface, inflicted by bacterial biofilms. Despite advances in the management of caries through various novel, biomimetic-filling materials there is much to learn of the pathophysiology and prevention of the disease. It is now apparent that oral candida biofilms play an important role in the progression of dentine and root caries, which is more prevalent among the elderlies. Another focus of the research group, would be to validate an in situ model developed locally, and explore its translational potential for drug delivery.

iii) Clinical epidemiology of biofilm related oral diseases in Sharjah and the Gulf region.

A chronic, insidious carious process leads to pulpal disease and destruction, requiring endodontic intervention. The biofilm microbiology of endodontic infections will be a related area of research that is envisaged. The foregoing sub-theme of research is closely aligned and will synergize well with the work of the Wound Healing Research group currently extant in the College.

iii) Clinical epidemiology of biofilm related oral diseases: Little or no data are available on the oral plaque biofilm flora of Sharjah and the Gulf region residents, either in health or disease. For instance, the antibiotic sensitivity profiles of the oral biofilm flora of these individuals are unknown. Compiling such a data set will be invaluable for planning and delivery of future healthcare in the region, and the group will undertake a pathfinder, pilot study of the antibiotic profiles of oral biofilms of Sharjah and the Gulf region residents using plaque samples derived from patients attending the UoS Dental Hospital.