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Herpesviral–bacterial synergy in the pathogenesis of human periodontitis

Slots, Jørgen

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: June 2007 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 278–283
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e3280964da0
Pathogenesis and immune response

Purpose of review Periodontitis is an infectious disease, but the specific mechanisms by which tooth-supportive tissues are lost remain obscure. This article proposes an infectious disease model for periodontitis in which herpesviral–bacterial interactions assume a major etiopathogenic role.

Recent findings Epstein–Barr virus type 1, cytomegalovirus and other herpesviruses occur at a high frequency in aggressive periodontitis lesions. Also, herpesvirus-infected periodontitis lesions tend to harbor elevated levels of classic periodontopathic bacteria, including Porphyromonas gingivalis, Dialister pneumosintes, Prevotella intermedia, Prevotella nigrescens, Campylobacter rectus, Treponema denticola and Actinobacillus (Aggregatibacter) actinomycetemcomitans.

Summary Conceivably, a herpesvirus active infection in the periodontium impairs local defenses, thereby permitting overgrowth and increased aggressiveness of periodontopathic bacteria. In turn, periodontal pathogenic bacteria may augment the virulence of periodontal herpesviruses. It is suggested that interactions among herpesviruses and specific bacterial species constitute an important pathogenetic feature of periodontitis and maybe also of various non-oral infections.

School of Dentistry, MC 0641, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Correspondence to Jørgen Slots, DDS, DMD, PhD, MS, MBA, School of Dentistry, MC 0641, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0641, USA Tel: +1 213 740 1091; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.