Hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria in tongue biofilm and their relationship with oral malodour

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The aims of this study were to identify hydrogen sulfide (H2S)-producing bacteria among tongue biofilm microflora and to investigate the relationship between bacterial flora and H2S levels in mouth air. Oral malodour levels in 10 subjects (age 21-56 years) were assessed by gas chromatography, and Breathtron and organoleptic scores. Based on these assessments, subjects were divided into two groups: an odour group and a no/low odour group. Tongue coatings were sampled and spread onto Fastidious Anaerobe Agar plates containing 0-05% cysteine, 0-12% glutathione and 0.02% lead acetate, and were then incubated anaerobically at 37 °C for 2 weeks. Bacteria forming black or grey colonies were selected as H2S-producing phenotypes. The numbers of total bacteria (P < 0.005) and H2S-producing bacteria (P < 0.05) in the odour group were significantly larger than those in the no/low odour group. Bacteria forming black or grey colonies (126 isolates from the odour group; 242 isolates from the no/low odour group) were subcultured, confirmed as producing H2S and identified according to 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Species of Veillonella (38.1% in odour group; 46-3% in no/low odour group), Actinomyces (25.4%; 17.7%) and Prevotella (10.3%; 7.8%) were the predominant H2S-producing bacteria in both the odour and no/low odour groups. These results suggest that an increase in the number of H 2S-producing bacteria in the tongue biofilm is responsible for oral malodour, although the bacterial composition of tongue biofilm was similar between the two groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-895
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Sept


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