Dental Microbiology PhD/MPhil

Major code: DBPR (PhD),DBMR (MPhil)


Oral microbiology is the study of the functioning of normally commensal microorganisms present in the oral cavity, and how their pathogenic properties may change to cause the common diseases of man i.e., caries and periodontitis (gum disease). In IGH the focus on oral microbes is centred on the virulence mechanisms of sub-gingival bacteria and their involvement in the pathogenesis of periodontal disease. The long term aims of such studies is to yield insights into potential for novel therapeutic strategies to treat gum disease.

Subject Overview

Research in oral microbiology (conducted by Dr John Smalley) is based in new laboratories in the Ronald Ross Building and in the Dental School Research Wing.  It encompasses studies of the pathogenic properties of sub-gingival Gram-negative anaerobes which are associated with initiation and progression of periodontal disease. One of the major focuses is on the black (haem)-pigmenting anaerobic bacteria (Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia) and the role of haem as a central virulence up-regulator for these species. On-going projects include the roles of cysteine proteases (gingipains and interpains) and outer-membrane haem-binding haemophores in haem acquisition from host haem-proteins. Interest is also focussed upon the modulation virulence properties of the above organisms in the periodontal tissues of diabetics (who suffer from increase incidence and severity of gum disease) during chronic hyperglycaemia. 

Research interest has also been extended into understanding the role played by periodontal disease-causing anaerobes in lung infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) and how extracellular products from Pseudomonas aeruginosa may enhance the virulence of black-pigmenting anaerobes which are major co-infecting species in the lungs of CF patients. 

Why choose Infection and Global Health?

Our postgraduate students have access to unrivalled expertise among Institute staff in a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases of humans and animals, together with state-of-the-art facilities. The Institute also integrates medical and veterinary research to enhance exchange of knowledge and skills, putting us at the forefront of the ‘one health agenda’.  We offer an outstanding teaching and learning experience undertaken within a culture of research excellence, which keeps staff at the cutting edge of knowledge and ensures student talent is nurtured and celebrated.