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Periodontitis can result in tooth loss and the associated chronic inflammation can provoke several severe systemic health risks. Adjunctive to mechanical treatment of periodontitis and as alternatives to antibiotics, the use of probiotic bacteria was suggested. In this study, the inhibitory effect of the probiotic Streptococcus salivarius subsp. salivarius strains M18 and K12, Streptococcus oralis subsp. dentisani 7746, and Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC PTA 5289 on anaerobic periodontal bacteria and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans was tested. Rarely included in other studies, we also quantified the inverse effect of pathogens on probiotic growth. Probiotics and periodontal pathogens were co-incubated anaerobically in a mixture of autoclaved saliva and brain heart infusion broth. The resulting genome numbers of the pathogens and of the probiotics were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. Mixtures of the streptococcal probiotics were also used to determine their synergistic, additive, or antagonistic effects. The overall best inhibitor of the periodontal pathogens was L. reuteri ATCC PTA 5289, but the effect is coenzyme B12-, anaerobiosis-, as well as glycerol-dependent, and further modulated by L. reuteri strain DSM 17938. Notably, in absence of glycerol, the pathogen-inhibitory effect could even turn into a growth spurt. Among the streptococci tested, S. salivarius M18 had the most constant inhibitory potential against all pathogens, followed by K12 and S. dentisani 7746, with the latter still having significant inhibitory effects on P. intermedia and A. actinomycetemcomitans. Overall, mixtures of the streptococcal probiotics did inhibit the growth of the pathogens equally or-in the case of A. actinomycetemcomitans- better than the individual strains. P. gingivalis and F. nucleatum were best inhibited by pure cultures of S. salivarius K12 or S. salivarius M18, respectively. Testing inverse effects, the growth of S. salivarius M18 was enhanced when incubated with the periodontal pathogens minus/plus other probiotics. In contrast, S. oralis subsp. dentisani 7746 was not much influenced by the pathogens. Instead, it was significantly inhibited by the presence of other streptococcal probiotics. In conclusion, despite some natural limits such as persistence, the full potential for probiotic treatment is by far not utilized yet. Especially, further exploring concerted activity by combining synergistic strains, together with the application of oral prebiotics and essential supplements and conditions, is mandatory.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Streptococcus salivarius K12Reduced Periodontitis-associated Bacterial GrowthBeneficial
Streptococcus salivarius M18Enhanced Growth of S. salivarius M18Beneficial
Streptococcus salivarius M18Reduced Periodontitis-associated Bacterial GrowthBeneficial

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