Can oral pathogens influence allergic disease?

Samuel J. Arbes, Elizabeth C. Matsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The hygiene hypothesis contends that fewer opportunities for infections and microbial exposures have resulted in more widespread asthma and atopic disease. Consistent with that hypothesis, decreases in infectious oral diseases over the past half century have coincided with increases in the prevalence of asthma and other allergic diseases. This observation has led some researchers to speculate that exposures to oral bacteria, including pathogens associated with periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, might play a protective role in the development of asthma and allergy. Colonization of the oral cavity with bacteria, including some species of periodontal pathogens, begins shortly after birth, and the detection of serum antibodies to oral pathogens in early childhood provides evidence of an early immune response to these bacteria. Current knowledge of the immune response to oral bacteria and the immunologic pathogenesis of periodontal diseases suggests biologically plausible mechanisms by which oral pathogens could influence the risk of allergic disease. However, studies investigating the association between oral pathogen exposures and allergic disease are few in number and limited by cross-sectional or case-control design, exclusion of young children, and use of surrogate measures of oral bacterial colonization. Additional studies, particularly well-designed case-control studies among very young children and prospective birth cohort studies, are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1119-1127
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • allergic rhinitis
  • allergy
  • asthma
  • gingivitis
  • hay fever
  • hygiene hypothesis
  • Oral microflora
  • oral pathogens
  • periodontal diseases
  • periodontitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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