Scientists have discovered a new species of bacteria in the mouth.
The finding could help in the battle against tooth decay and gum disease and to better treatments, the research suggests.
The UK team studied healthy tissue, as well as tumours in the mouth, and found three strains of bacteria known as Prevotella, which could not be identified.
The Prevotella species are already associated with various oral diseases, as well as infections in other parts of the body.
The scientists named the new species Prevotella histicola.
Prof William Wade of King’s College London Dental Institute said: ‘Interestingly, this species was isolated from within the oral tissues, both in oral cancers and normal, healthy tissue. This confirms other work showing that oral bacteria can invade both tissues and individual cells.’
Understanding the composition of the oral microbes will also help scientists develop new preventive measures and treatments for oral diseases.
‘A detailed description and name for each species of bacteria are needed so that different laboratories can recognise all of the bacterial species present in the mouth," Prof Wade added.
Details of this discovery are published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.