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Xerostomia detrimentally affects the oral health of many head and neck cancer patients who undergo radiotherapy. Its sequelae become an ongoing burden for patients that often manifest as periodontal disease and dental decay. Bacteria play a major role in the pathogenesis of these conditions and here we explore the use of an oral probiotic to beneficially modulate the oral bacterial community post-radiotherapy. In this pilot study, a four-week intervention with oral probiotic lozenges containing Streptococcus salivarius M18 was trialled in seven patients. Post-intervention changes in oral health and in the composition of the plaque and saliva bacterial communities were compared with six patients in a placebo group. An improvement in periodontal screening and plaque index scores was observed in both groups after the intervention period. The oral probiotic lozenges did not significantly impact bacterial community composition or diversity, nor did the probiotic lozenges increase the relative sequence abundance of ZOTU_1 (the probiotic-associated sequence assigned to S. salivarius) detected in the samples. Network analyses suggest negative interactions occurred between ZOTU_1 and species from the periopathogenic genera Campylobacter, Fretibacterium, Selenomonas and Treponema but further investigation is required to more fully understand the beneficial properties of this oral probiotic.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Streptococcus salivarius BLIS M18Altered Fecal Bacterial CompositionNeutral
Streptococcus salivarius BLIS M18Improved Periodontal HealthBeneficial
Streptococcus salivarius M18No Significant Impact on Bacterial Community Composition or DiversityNeutral
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