Oral Microbiome Research Group

The Oral Microbiome Research Group is a multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians and educationalists, investigating the immunological and vascular mechanisms by which oral bacteria regulate health and disease. They are focussing on hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and oral cancer. The OMRG are also testing novel mouthwashes to explore their beneficial and detrimental effects on systemic health.

Clinical trials are underway in human participants and with human tissue, as well as laboratory-based studies utilising metagenomics, physiological analysis, molecular biology, tissue culture and tissue engineering models. 

The group is committed to antibiotic stewardship, with the objective of reducing antimicrobial resistance. They are invested in global approaches to education and research on antibiotic use.

Recent publications detail their exciting new advances and future directions exploring the effects of mouthwashes on the oral microbiome:

Chlorhexidine can alter the diversity of the oral microbiome; the acidity of the oral environment and alter blood pressure via nitrate reducing bacteria.

https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/study-shows-commonly-used-mouthwash-could-increase-risk-of-damage-to-teeth

Bescos, R., Ashworth, A., Cutler, C. etal. Effects of Chlorhexidine mouthwash on the oral microbiome. SciRep 10, 5254 (2020).https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61912-4

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-61912-4

Bees could help lower your blood pressure: using a novel mouthwash made from propilis, a substance used to waterproof hives

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04117451

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-7773601/How-bees-help-lower-blood-pressure.html

Other publications also detail the discovery of new mechanisms by which the oral microbiome can contribute to reducing blood pressure during exercise and a link between the oral microbiome and exercise capacity:

Cutler, C., Kiernan, M., Willis, J. R., & Bescos, R. Post-exercise hypotension and skeletal muscle oxygenation is regulated by nitrate-reducing activity of oral bacteria. Free Rad Biol Med(2019), 143, 252-259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2019.07.035

Thomas, B., Smallwood, S., Cutler, C., & Bescos, R. The oral nitrate-reducing capacity correlates with peak power output and peak oxygen uptake in healthy humans. Nitric Oxide (2019) 87,43-51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.niox.2019.03.001

Principal Investigators

Healthy mouth, healthy body 

The multidisciplinary team all study the oral microbiome to investigate links between oral microbes and human health or disease in the following areas:

Dr Raul Bescos

Raul is a Lecturer and Scientist within the Faculty of Heath and his areas of research expertise are nutrition, exercise physiology and blood pressure control.

Link to personal profile and full publication list

Key publication: Cutler C, Kiernan M… Bescos R 2019 'Post-exercise hypotension and skeletal muscle oxygenation is regulated by nitrate-reducing activity of oral bacteria' Free Radical Biology and Medicine 143, 252-259


Dr Zoë Brookes

Zoë is a Clinical Lecturer within the Peninsula Dental School, Faculty of Health and a General Dentist working in primary care. Her areas of expertise include hypertension, sepsis/AMR and translational dental research.

Link to personal profile and full publication list

Key publications:

Brookes ZL, Bescos R, Belfield L, Ali K, Roberts A. Current uses of chlorhexidine for management of oral disease: a narrative review. J Dentistry 2020; In Press

Alfieri A, Ong AC, Kammerer RA, Solanky T, Bate S, Tasab M, Brown NJ, Brookes ZL. Angiopoietin-1 regulates microvascular reactivity and protects the microcirculation during acute endothelial dysfunction: role of eNOS and VE-cadherin. Pharmacol Res 2014; 80:43-54.


PhD Studentships


We have self-funded PhD studentships available for students to participate in basic science and clinical research. The Oral Microbiome Research Group have a variety of scientific, translation or clinical projects available, with hypertension, novel mouthwashes, anti-microbial resistance and metagenomic salivary diagnostic tools being current priorities. Brief summaries are included here, but please contact the team for more details if you are interested.

Learn more about the studentships.

Oral microbiome and hypertension

Applicants are invited for a 3 year self-funded PhD, including bench fees, to analyse how oral microbiome dysbiosis may be relate to systemic hypertension.It is already known that the activity of nitrate-reducing oral bacteria (bacteria’s ability to convert nitrate into nitrite, maintaining lower blood pressure), is altered in people with hypertension and this mechanism will be explored using physiological methods, as a well as with metagenomic assessment of the microbiome. It will thus be both a laboratory based and clinical study working with people with hypertension.

Novel technologies to explore the oral resistome with antiseptics

Applicants are invited for a 3 year self-funded PhD, including bench fees, to study to how antiseptic mouthwashes alter the oral microbiome, in particular the amount of ‘resistant’ genes amongst bacteria within the oral cavity. Brand new metagenomics techniques would be developed in conjunction with our collaborators in industry, for chairside salivary diagnostics for use in dental patients, as a key feature of this project.

Oral microbiome and novel mouthwashes

Applicants are invited for a 3 year self-funded PhD,including bench fees, to analyse how novel mouthwashes alter the oral microbiome in the context of oral disease, namely periodontal disease. Thus far, our data suggests that certain mouthwashes may promote a detrimental dysbiotic environment. We are now testing new antimicrobial agents that have the potential to promote oral health, via the promotion of a diverse and balanced oral microbiome. It will be both a laboratory-based study, using metagenomics, and a clinical study working with patients for oral sampling,oral screening and physiological measurements.

Oral microbiome and oral cancer

Applicants are invited for a 3 year self-funded PhD, including bench fees, to study whether periodontal bacteria play a role in regulating oral tumour angiogenesis mechanisms. The project will involve the tissue culture and 3D oral cancer models, as well as qPCR, microscopy, and protein assays. Results would help to determine whether the bacteria that cause periodontal disease also enhance the growth of OSCC tumours, providing an additional, modifiable target for reduction of oral cancer risk.

Collaborators

We would like to thank the following organisations for funding University of Plymouth Oral Microbiome Research

  • Oral and Dental Research Trust

  • GlaxoSmithKline

  • The Seale-Hayne Educational Trust

  • Northcott Devon Foundation

  • University of Plymouth

Collaborators, with thanks

Dr Ify Offiah (NIHR Clinical Lecturer and Obstetricsand Gynaecology Registrar, Derriford Hospital) https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/staff/ifeoma-offiah

Professor Robert Freeman (Obstetrics andGynaecology Consultant, Derriford Hospital)

Professor Chris Easton (University of West Scotland, UK)

Professor Toni Gabaldon (Institute of Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona, Spain)

Dr Mario Siervo (University of Nottingham, UK)

Dr Patricia Casas-Agustench (Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain)

Dr Diego Agustin Rodriguez and MD Lucilla Piccari (Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain)

Professor Glenn McConell (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Professor Mary Hickson (University of Plymouth, UK)

Dr Brynmor Breese (University of Plymouth, UK)

Dr Desley White (University of Plymouth, UK)

Dr Ann Ashworth (University of Plymouth, UK)