Scientists in the US have developed a genetically modified mouthwash, which it is thought will be an effective tool in the fight against tooth decay. It is hoped that clinical trials of the mouthwash will begin in the US and UK by the end of the year.
The findings of the scientists were presented to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science which is taking place in Boston, US. Estimating that it will cost around £100, the scientists, led by professor Jeffrey Hillman from the University of Florida, claim that one treatment with the mouthwash will last a lifetime. They say that if given to children when their first teeth come through, it could eliminate the problem of dental cavities later in their lives.
Professor Hillman has genetically altered a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans, which is normally responsible for breaking down sugars in the mouth to produce lactic acid. Lactic acid in the mouth is a cause of tooth decay as it erodes the enamel surface of teeth. The genetically altered version stops the production of lactic acid, and so prevents tooth decay. Tests on animals have shown that when the genetically altered version of the bacterium was introduced to the mouth, it replaces the decay-causing version and stops it returning.