Gum Disease and Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Researchers have discovered how byproducts, in the form of small fatty acids from 2 bacteria prevalent in gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum, incite the growth of Kaposi’s sarcoma-related (KS) lesions and tumors in the mouth. This discovery could lead to early saliva testing for the bacteria, which, if found, could be treated and monitored for signs of cancer before it develops into a malignancy, researchers say. The discovery is described in The Journal of Virology.

These new study findings by Ye et al provide one of the first looks at how the periodontal bacteria create a unique microenvironment in the oral cavity that contributes to the replication of the Kaposi’s sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) and development of KS. The high levels of these 2 bacteria are found in the saliva of periodontal disease patients, and at lower levels in those with good oral health—further evidence of the link between oral and overall physical health. KS impacts a significant number of HIV-positive people. Also at risk are people with compromised immune systems: those on medications to suppress rejection of transplants, cancer patients on chemotherapies, and the elderly population. The researchers found that not only did the fatty acid byproducts of these 2 bacteria allow the KSHV virus to multiply, but the process also set in motion a cascade of actions that inhibited molecules in the body’s immune system from stopping the growth of KSHV.

Ye et al said that this study has led them to believe periodontal disease is a risk factor for KS tumor in HIV patients.

(Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research News and Features, March 10, 2014)