Scientists Develop Vaccine Against Tooth Decay

British scientists say they've developed a vaccine to prevent tooth decay by eliminating bacteria from the mouth, according to reports from CNN.

The American Dental Association's (ADA) Division of Science believes that the initial research results appear promising in the ongoing fight against tooth decay. The ADA looks forward to additional long-term studies that validate the results as reported.

The new vaccine is a plant-based substance that is painted on teeth and allegedly produces antibodies that prevent harmful bacteria (streptococcus mutans) from sticking to teeth and causing cavities. The vaccine was developed by California-based Planet Biotechnology and tested at Guy's Hospital in London, CNN reports.

The tasteless, colorless vaccine was tested on people during a four-month trial. Volunteers received the vaccine twice a week for three weeks for a total of six applications.

According to the researchers, a mouth rinse was first used to reduce the levels of bacteria in the volunteers to zero. Then they applied a control, or placebo solution to some patients and the vaccine to others. Within two months, the bacteria returned to the mouths of the control group while those who received the vaccine were reportedly protected for up to four months. Dr. Julian Ma and Professor Tom Lehner led the team of researchers at Guys Hospital dental school where the testing took place. The scientific trials are reported in the May issue of Nature Medicine.

ADA scientists are looking forward to examining and validating the results from this as well as larger clinical trials. The ADA science staff adds that a variety of research endeavors have been underway to explore the possibility of developing a caries vaccine for more than 20 years. The Association is hopeful that a safe, effective vaccine can be developed for the public.

The company is hoping to have the vaccine available for consumers in 2001 or 2002, according to news reports.