Current status of a mucosal vaccine against dental caries

Academic Article


  • The evidence of a specific bacterial cause of dental caries and of the function of the salivary glands as an effector site of the mucosal immune system has provided a scientific basis for the development of a vaccine against this highly prevalent and costly oral disease. Research efforts towards developing an effective and safe caries vaccine have been facilitated by progress in molecular biology, with the cloning and functional characterization of virulence factors from mutans streptococci, the principal causative agent of dental caries, and advancements in mucosal immunology, including the development of sophisticated antigen delivery systems and adjuvants that stimulate the induction of salivary immunoglobulin A antibody responses. Cell-surface fibrillar proteins, which mediate adherence to the salivary pellicle, and glucosyltransferase enzymes, which synthesize adhesive glucans and allow microbial accumulation, are virulence components of mutans streptococci, and primary candidates for a human caries vaccine. Infants, representing the primary target population for a caries vaccine, become mucosally immunocompetent and secrete salivary immunoglobulin A antibodies during the first weeks after birth, whereas mutans streptococci colonize the tooth surfaces at a discrete time period that extends around 26 months of life. Therefore, immunization when infants are about one year old may establish effective immunity against an ensuing colonization attempts by mutans streptococci. The present review critically evaluates recent progress in this field of dental research and attempts to stress the protective potential as well as limitations of caries immunization.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hajishengallis G; Michalek SM
  • Start Page

  • 1
  • End Page

  • 20
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • 1