Periodontitis worsens chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Periodontal disease worsens chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

A recent study has found that bacteria associated with periodontal disease promote chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Thu. 25. January 2024

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CHENGDU, China: Research has shown a connection between severe periodontal disease and the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the specifics of how this relationship affects the immune system are not yet fully understood. Shedding new insights on the topic, a new study has reported that immune system cells play a crucial role in the microbial link between COPD and periodontal disease.

The researchers, from Sichuan University in China, reported that bacteria associated with periodontal disease promote COPD through the activation of two types of immune system cells: gamma-delta (γδ) T cells, white blood cells that can respond quickly to infected or cancerous cells, and M2 macrophages, white blood cells that help heal wounds and reduce inflammation. They believe that concentrating on this particular mechanism could present innovative approaches for the prevention and management of COPD.

“By enhancing periodontal therapy and targeting the inhibition of γδ T cells and M2 macrophages [we] may be able to help control the progression of COPD,” co-author Dr Boyu Tang, a microbiologist at the West China Hospital of Stomatology at Sichuan University, said in a press release.

COPD is a lifelong disease that has no cure. According to the World Health Organization, it is the sixth-leading cause of death worldwide. In countries with higher income levels, smoking tobacco is the primary contributor to COPD, whereas in low- and middle-income countries, both tobacco smoking and domestic air pollution play major roles as risk factors.

Previous studies have shown that Porphyromonas gingivalis plays an important role in periodontal disease. In the present study, the researchers demonstrated how this bacterium could aggravate the progression of COPD. In one of their experiments, they infected mice in which they had induced COPD with P. gingivalis and found that this resulted in worse progression of the COPD compared with mice with COPD only. Another experiment showed that when mice were orally exposed to P. gingivalis, the bacteria moved to and infected their lung tissue. This resulted in a notable alteration in the lung microbiota. Further observations revealed that periodontitis promoted the expansion of the immune cells in the lung tissue.

In yet another experiment, the researchers were able to show that P. gingivalis could activate the immune cells, thus promoting their ability to produce cytokines associated with worsening COPD.

Future studies on human subjects are underway to validate the findings. The researchers are planning to recruit patients with both COPD and periodontal disease and offer them periodontitis treatment. They would then compare the participants’ lung function and immune cell counts before and after treatment.

“Our finding could lead to a potential new strategy for treating COPD,” Li concluded.

The study, titled “Periodontitis aggravates COPD through the activation of γδ T cell and M2 macrophage”, was published online on 12 January 2024 in mSystems, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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