Borrelia vincentii
Herman Armstrong

Borrelia vincentii is an organism that exists normally in the human mouth in low concentrations and safe proportions. It is an anaerobic spirochete that is also Gram-negative. When allowed to grow past regular conditions many adverse effects can occur causing much pain and discomfort to the mouth and throat. Discovered by French physician Henri Vincent, its common name is Vincent’s Disease or Vincent s Angina. It is also widely known as Trench Mouth, due to an outbreak in soldiers in trenches during World War One. B. vincentii used to be spread out worldwide, but is now mainly in countries that are not very developed.

Vincent’s Disease can be passed very easily, which is why it is important to have good oral hygiene. Kissing, unwashed drinking glasses, or sharing eating utensils are all ways to pass on Vincent’s Disease. It follows that those with poor oral hygiene are more at risk to contracting the disease. On top of that other factors such as stress, poor diet and nutrition, tobacco usage, and already having a systematic disease can all increase chances of getting the disease. Symptoms include foul breath, ulcers in the inter-dental papillae, ulcers on the gums that easily bleed, increase in the space between teeth, gums covered with white/gray layer of dead skin, and fever accompanied with fatigue. Although painful and unsightly, the disease does not do anything else to the victim, no other risk will come from having the disease.

This bacterium can be cultured, although it is extremely difficult to do so. If cultured a Gram stain can be done and it can easily be identified, even with a simple light microscope. Other ways to determine the possibility of an excess of B. vincentii besides the visual methods mentioned previously are an ESR test and Leucocytosis. The ESR or erythrocyte sedimentation rate is used to measure the amount of inflammation in the gums. It is performed by placing a blood sample in a Wintrobe tube, and measuring the rate at which the red blood cells fall. The faster the red blood cells fall the higher inflammation is. Another form of seeing if an excess of B. vincentii is present is the occurrence of Leucocytosis, or an increase in the white blood cell count which happens during acute infection of inflammation.

As horrible as it sounds there is treatment for Vincent’s Disease. Antibiotics, peroxide mouth washes, and dental work is. A sample of the infected tissue can be analyzed to determine the severity and magnitude of the disease. The concentration of the peroxide wash is determined by the severity of the disease, it is usually about a 3 percent solution mixed half and half with water. Metronidazole, is a commonly used antibiotic against B. vincentii and is commercially sold under the name “Flagyl.” The washes and antibiotic treatments are commonly both done on a victim systematically and the duration of the treatment is also dependent on the severity of the disease. If that is not enough oral surgery may be performed to correct the issue.

B. vincentii is an organism that is normally one that does not cause for concern. It can get out of hand if the sufficient oral conditions are not properly maintained. The disease it causes can be passed very easily from person to person and it more prevalent in less urbanized areas. It can cause much pain and discomfort to its host, but fortunately there are ways to treat it. Pathogens such as these should teach us all to be more careful in our overall daily lives, routines, and habits.


Frobisher, Sommermeyer, and Feurst. Microbiology in Health and Disease. W.B. Saunders and Co. 1969. page 379.

*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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