Caries and periodontitis associated bacteria are more abundant in human saliva compared to other great apes

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OBJECTIVE: Caries and periodontitis are uncommon in free ranging great apes but a major oral disease in humans. The aim was to analyze abundance and diversity of oral bacteria of western humans and their closest relatives, to examine if zoo apes feeding on diet other than in their natural habitat show caries and periodontitis associated salivary bacteria and comparable susceptibility for oral civilization diseases as humans.

DESIGN: Bacterial composition of human and great ape saliva samples were compared by analyzing the V3 region of the bacteria 16S rRNA gene by Next Generation Sequencing with Ion Torrent.

RESULTS: Results show species-specific differences in the salivary bacteria phyla and genera composition among all apes. Moreover, salivary bacterial composition within non-human apes showed higher intra-individual differences than within humans. Human saliva exhibited lowest bacteria diversity. Different behavioral patterns including (oral) hygiene standards of humans and non-human apes might cause differences. All species differed in diversity and abundance of caries associated bacteria genera. Human saliva revealed higher abundance of caries and periodontitis relevant bacteria in contrast to other great apes, which might be supported by higher consume of refined cariogenic food items, possibly raising their risk for oral disease susceptibility.

CONCLUSIONS: The study offers first clues on caries and periodontitis relevant bacteria of captive great ape species in comparison to humans. Higher susceptibility to oral diseases for humans than for their closest relatives, leads to the question, if the oral microbiome changed during evolution and how it is influenced by the human life style.


Original languageEnglish
Article number104648
Pages (from-to)104648
JournalArchives of oral biology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

External IDs

Scopus 85077646400


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Animals, Bacteria, Dental Caries, Hominidae, Humans, Periodontitis, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Saliva

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