Studies of natural antibiotics in our mouths may lead to new treatments for oral infections, as well as ways to boost the infection-fighting powers of mouthwashes, denture coatings, and wound dressings, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). These compounds, called beta-defensins, are key components of our innate immune system.
"Innate immunity describes the defenses that were are born with; theyre coded in our genes. In contrast, we develop the antibodies of our acquired immune system over time as were exposed to bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Beverly Dale, professor in the University of Washington Department of Oral Biology, School of Dentistry, and scientific director of the UW Comprehensive Center for Oral Health Research. "Its when our innate defenses fail that the acquired immune system picks up the slack."
The innate immune system has some remarkable characteristics, including the ability to distinguish between harmless and harmful bacteria. For example, disease-causing and harmless, or commensal, bacteria trigger the activation of beta-defensins through different chemical signaling pathways. The role of commensal bacteria may be to alert the immune system to the possible presence of invading bacteria, according to Dale.
Walter Neary | EurekAlert!
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