Background: West Virginia has the worst oral health in the United States, but the reasons for this are unclear. This pilot study explored the etiology of this disparity using culture-independent analyses to identify bacterial species associated with oral disease.Methods: Bacteria in subgingival plaque samples from twelve participants in two independent West Virginia dental-related studies were characterized using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and Human Oral Microbe Identification Microarray (HOMIM) analysis. Unifrac analysis was used to characterize phylogenetic differences between bacterial communities obtained from plaque of participants with low or high oral disease, which was further evaluated using clustering and Principal Coordinate Analysis.Results: Statistically different bacterial signatures (P < 0.001) were identified in subgingival plaque of individuals with low or high oral disease in West Virginia based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Low disease contained a high frequency of Veillonella and Streptococcus, with a moderate number of Capnocytophaga. High disease exhibited substantially increased bacterial diversity and included a large proportion of Clostridiales cluster bacteria (Selenomonas, Eubacterium, Dialister). Phylogenetic trees constructed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that Clostridiales were repeated colonizers in plaque associated with high oral disease, providing evidence that the oral environment is somehow influencing the bacterial signature linked to disease.Conclusions: Culture-independent analyses identified an atypical bacterial signature associated with high oral disease in West Virginians and provided evidence that the oral environment influenced this signature. Both findings provide insight into the etiology of the oral disparity in West Virginia.
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