Student working on a research project.

Virulence Mechanisms Of Oral Bacteria

The human oral cavity is a highly diversed ecosytem conatining more than 500 species of bacteria, including both cultivable and non-cultivable species. It is believed that infection with a select few Gram-negative anaerobes, called the 'red-complex', is responsible for causing periodontitis or 'gum-disease', which if not treated leads to tooth loss. My lab studies the pathogenic mechanisms of the red-complex bacteria by utilizing molecular-genetic and biochemical approaches; the bacteria of the red-complex include Porphyromonas gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia (formerly Bacteroides forsythus) and Treponema denticola (a spirochete). The overall objectives of my research are to gain a better understanding of how these pathogenic bacteria initiate colonization, form biofilms and initiate tissue destructive host immune responses critical for disease progression. The research focuses on identifying the virulence factors these bacteria produce and host-cell receptors involved in recognition of virulence factors. Once these virulence factors and host cell receptors have been identified, the logical next step would be to develop intervention strategies, such as vaccines, against periodontitis causing bacteria. In this regard, we have developed genetic systems in non-pathogenic oral streptococci (Streptococci gordonii) for expression and delivery of antigens of choice as vectors for oral immunization.

Research Project Information

Disciplines: Oral Biology
Student Skill-Set Needed: ***POSITION CURRENTLY FILLED*** Laboratory experience desirable but not essential. -Student should be a biology major/taking biology courses.
Compensation: Academic Credit, Volunteer, Work Study


For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:

Faculty Member: Ashu Sharma
Department: Oral Biology
Office: 211 Foster Hall
Phone: (716)829-2759