Archaea Identified As Possible Human Pathogen
Apr 15, 2006 - 6:42:37 PM

For the first time German researchers have linked Archaea to infectious diseases in humans by identifying it as a possible cause of endodontic infections. They report their findings in the April 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Archaea, one of the three domains of life, has previously been recognized as a component of human microbiota, but not as a cause of human disease. High numbers of methane-producing archaea (methanogens) have been found in the gastrointestinal tract, vagina, and oral cavity but are often ignored in routine laboratory diagnostics despite the diversity of pathogens identified in the other two domains, Bacteria and Eukarya.

In attempt to gather more evidence for the existence of pathogenic methanogens researchers focused on their possible role in primary endodontic infections. A tooth's root canal is devoid of microbes in a healthy state, emphasizing that endodontic microbes must gain access while evading host defense mechanisms, both of which are features displayed by pathogens. In the study researchers analyzed samples from 20 different endodontic patients that had not undergone prior treatment, but had been previously screened for bacteria. Of those 20 samples, five returned positive results for the presence of methanogenic archaea.

"Here we report for the first time the detection, identification, and quantification of a defined phylotype of archaea in infected root canals," say the researchers. "This finding may contribute to an emerging view of archaea as potential human pathogens."

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