Treponema denticola
Katie Hallpenny

Around 400 years ago a man named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek took some scrapings from his mouth and looked at them under a rudimentary microscope. Imagine to your surprise that you found little corkscrew shaped cells, a form that no one had ever thought a living cell could come in. Now flash forward to around 2000. There you are in a group of scientist that are mapping bacteria and you choose a funny little spiral shaped bacteria to be one of your first projects. These are Treponema denticola’s claim to fame.

Treponema denticola is a small anaerobic bacterium that is Gram-negative. T. denticola can be cultivated in the lab unlike its relative T. pallidum which is the syphilis spirochete because of this and its genetic mapping it is fast becoming the spirochete of choice for study. T. denticola is a member of the “red complex” which is the three bacteria that are the leading causes of periodontal disease. The other two bacteria are Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Tannerella forsythensis. These three bacteria cause a layer of film on between the gums and the tooth and if left over time can work its way lower into the tooth socket causing bone reabsorption and tooth decay. Periodontal disease is a major part and income of any dentist practice and at least 80% of all adults will have periodontal disease in their lifetime.

In the past few years T. denticola has been genetically mapped. This is important because along with P. gingivalis’s mapping better oral health procedures can be found and put into practice. T. denticola is also one of the only spirochetes that has been genetically mapped. This along with its ability to be cultivated is making T. denticola the prototype organism to study spirochetes.

In conclusion, Treponema denticola is an anaerobic, Gram-negative oral bacterium that is responsible for periodontal disease. It has also been genetically mapped and is able to be cultivated in a laboratory setting.


*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.


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