SUMMARY: The acquisition and transmission of by 16 consecutively born infant monkeys () was studied. The 16 infant monkeys were weaned in four groups and caged together to form a commune. Transmission from mother to infant occurred infrequently. was isolated from nine of the mothers but only from the dental plaque of two infant monkeys at weaning at which time the predominant streptococci were and . One further animal was colonized by during the formation of the commune, but only after it was caged with an infant harbouring the same organism. For 46 d after the completion of the commune, the monkeys were fed a starch-based diet during which time of serotypes or were isolated from the faeces of all 16 animals and from the dental plaque taken from the developmental groove of the first deciduous molar of 11 animals. Faecal transmission appeared to be an important factor in the spread of between monkeys in the commune. The monkeys were then fed a caries-promoting high sucrose diet resulting in a rapid increase in the proportion of in the plaque and in the faeces. serotype was more frequently isolated from both plaque and faeces and its predominance may in part be due to the production of a bacteriocin active against serotype and other species of oral streptococci isolated from monkey dental plaque. The proportion of in the developmental groove 8 d after the introduction of the high sucrose diet was significantly related to both the caries status of the groove and the total caries score 6 months later. The results suggest that, in this model of human dental caries, is the major bacterial factor in the initiation of tooth decay.


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