Scientists have found strong evidence for a link between the bacterium Solobacterium moorei and bad breath. This organism is an anaerobic bacillus that has rarely been encountered in medicine, but has recently been isolated from feces, dental abscesses, and the mouths of people suffering from oral malodor. In laboratory testing, scientists have also confirmed that the bacterium produces hydrogen sulfide, one of the gases that accounts for the characteristic odor of rotten eggs.

Bacteria associated with halitosis are nothing new: we've known for a number of years that anaerobic bacteria living in the mouth give off the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) responsible for oral malodor. These bacteria flourish in the absence of oxygen and metabolize proteins supplied by cells, food particles, and secretions. In breaking down proteins, the organisms give off VSCs as a byproduct. The relationship between Solobacterium moorei and bad breath is explained in the same way. Researchers have identified suspicious species of anaerobic bacteria one by one, and found many of them to be present in virtually all mouths, but apparently flourishing in greater numbers where odor is an issue. It's never been clear why the various species do better in some mouths than in others.

The link between Solobacterium moorei and bad breath appears to be much stronger than that found for other species. In studies where researchers looked for the organism in the mouths of volunteers, they found it in virtually all subjects with oral malodor, and in almost none of those without the condition. In one study, subjects who did not have oral malodor, but who did have the bacterium, had another oral problem, such as periodontitis (inflammation of the gums). Of all the bacteria associated with halitosis so far, this new species appears the most likely to provide an answer and clues to a cure.

If research proves a causative relationship between Solobacterium moorei and bad breath, we may be able to devise a way to get rid of a health problem that has resisted all attempts to deal with it for decades. Testing of antibiotics against the organism has shown that it is sensitive to many of the drugs already available to us. If doctors can determine how best to deliver the drug to regions of the mouth were the anaerobes live, oral malodor could be treated like any other infection. We may not have the whole story yet-there may be other bacteria associated with halitosis that scientists have yet to find-but we are one step closer to a real cure for bad breath.

Source for this article: VI Haraszthy, D. Gerber, B. Clark et al. "Characterization and prevalence of Solobacterium moorei associated with oral halitosis." Journal of Breath Research: March 2008.

Solobacterium Moorei and Bad Breath by R. Drysdale