A research team from New York University (NYU) has received a 4-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)to use whole genome sequencing to identify the strains of Lactobacillibacteria (Lb) that contribute to the development of severe earlychildhood caries.

Although the link between Lb and severe early childhood caries hasbeen known for almost a century, progress in delineating which of the140 Lb species are responsible for the disease has been elusive. Therecent development of whole genome sequencing has created theopportunity to identify the bacteria.

Severe early childhood caries can destroy most of a child’s teeth byage 3, and disproportionately affects underserved populations, includingAmerican Indians and Alaskan natives.

The researchers will analyze several hundred bacteria samples fromchildren with severe early childhood caries and their parents, and fromcaries-free children and their parents. Sampling and collection willtake place at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center.

The study will be led by Page W. Caufield, DDS, PhD (pictured), professor of cariology and comprehensive care, and Yihong Li, DDS, MPH, DrPH, professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, both from NYU.

The sequencing will be conducted by co-investigators at UniversityCollege in Ireland and at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in theUnited Kingdom. The NYU team will collaborate with experts on bacterialgenome evolution at the American Museum of Natural History to identifysequences common to children with severe early childhood caries andtheir parents.