Gum disease produces an acid which invigorates the virus that can lead to full-blown AIDS, a Japanese researcher said Thursday, and claimed the finding to be a world first.
A group of bacteria causes periodontal disease - a chronic inflammation that erodes bony structure in the gum -- posing a threat to the teeth and the entire body, the researcher said.
"They produce a large amount of butyric acid, which smells like socks you wore for a long time," said Kuniyasu Ochiai, professor who chairs the Microbiology Department at Tokyo-based Nihon University.
The acid, which can also exist in rancid butter, hinders a kind of enzyme called HDAC that blocks HIV from proliferating, Ochiai told AFP.
In-vitro experiments have shown that the virus in two kinds of cells related to the immune system rapidly proliferates after given culture fluid containing the gum disease-causing bacteria and butyric acid they produced, he said.
"Serious periodontal disease could lead to the development (of AIDS) among HIV-positive people... although the probability largely depends on individual physical strength," Ochiai said.
"There are fears that even those whose were unaware that they had contracted HIV could develop the epidemic once they have periodontal disease," he said, underscoring the importance of oral health care.
Previous research has shown that gum disease is linked to diabetes and heart disease but it is the world's first finding that it activates HIV, Ochiai said.
The study will be published in the March issue of the US monthly Journal of Immunology, he said.
The research team also plans to confirm the finding in tests on animals, he said.
The study has been led by Ochiai as well as Takashi Okamoto, molecular biology professor at Nagoya City University in central Japan and research assistant Kenichi Imai there.