Scientists at the University of Melbourne have developed a therapeutic dental vaccine to avoid or minimise treatment using surgery and antibiotics for severe gum disease.

The vaccine has been validated by research published in NPJ Vaccines journal.

Over the past 15 years, dental scientists at the Oral Health CRC have been developing a vaccine for chronic periodontitis, in collaboration with CSL.

The findings published in the journal indicate the vaccine’s effectiveness in association with the groups based in Melbourne and Cambridge, US.

The vaccine counteracts the enzymes generated by the bacterium porphyromonas gingivalis, which is responsible for the imbalance of micro-organisms in dental plaque.

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This affect of the vaccine triggers an immune response, which in turn generates antibodies that neutralise the gingivalis’s toxins.

Oral Health CRC chief executive officer and Melbourne professor Eric Reynolds AO said: “We currently treat periodontitis with professional cleaning sometimes involving surgery and antibiotic regimes.

“These methods are helpful, but in many cases the bacterium re-establishes in the dental plaque, causing a microbiological imbalance so the disease continues.

“These methods are helpful, but in many cases the bacterium re-establishes in the dental plaque, causing a microbiological imbalance so the disease continues.”

“Periodontitis is widespread and destructive. We hold high hopes for this vaccine to improve quality of life for millions of people.”

It is expected that the clinical trials on periodontitis patients will commence from 2018.

Periodontitis is seen in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and damages gum tissue and bone supporting teeth, resulting in tooth loss.

It affects more than 50% of Australians older than 65.

Image: Antibodies attach themselves to and neutralise gum disease-causing bacteria. Photo: courtesy of Oral Health CRC/University of Melbourne.