The Oral Microbiology and Microbiome Group

Research Overview

The Oral Microbiology and Microbiome Group is part of the Centre for Oral Health Research at the Melbourne Dental School. We use systems biology approaches to determine the causes of chronic human diseases and conditions that involve oral microorganisms. In particular we are applying a range of microbiomic approaches to determine the aetiology of polymicrobial diseases that result from dysbiosis. The long-term aim of all of these studies is to develop novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of human disease.


Early Childhood Caries

Early Childhood Caries affects the majority of children in Victoria and in severe cases can have a significant detrimental effect on development and quality of life. Early Childhood Caries is a preventive disease yet is the leading reason for preventable childhood hospitalisations. In these studies we take multidisciplinary approaches to understanding the causes, progression, prevalence, severity and natural history of disease. We also examine the current preventive treatments for early childhood caries in Victoria and their effectiveness. These projects bring together microbiology, epidemiology, biostatistics, biomarker discovery and a range of innovative approaches that will translate to better health.

An oral bacterial aetiology for Alzheimer's Disease.

As it is becoming more apparent that bacteria or their products are able to cross the blood brain barrier we are determining the role of oral bacteria in the development and progression of Alzheimer's Disease. Our aims are to understand how bacteria escape from the oral cavity, colonise the brain and how they influence the progression of disease.

Bacterial chemotaxis and chronic disease

Treponema denticola is a chemotactic, motile spirochaete that is an aetiological agent of chronic periodontitis. Its unique form of motility and chemotaxis enable it to move through highly viscous environments. It has twenty chemoreceptor proteins that enable it to respond to a range of stimulatory substances. In this project we will determine how T. denticola responses to environmental stimuli and how this affects its ability to form pathogenic polymicrobial biofilms. We are cloning and expressing T. denticola chemotaxis proteins and determining their substrate specificity using highly novel microarray technologies. Using specific T. denticola mutants we will characterise polymicrobial biofilm development using a custom-built flow cell and confocal scanning laser microscopy.

The role of microbial dysbiosis in chronic oral diseases

The aims of this group of related projects are to gain a better understanding of the polymicrobial cause of chronic oral diseases including periodontitis and dental caries using microbiomic approaches. In collaboration with our clinical researchers we determine the microbiomes of human clinical samples and relate these bacterial communities to the disease state. These diseases are caused by a dysbiosis in the oral bacterial communities that leads to the emergence of a group of pathobionts that dominate the community.

Polymicrobial interactions in disease

The majority of human chronic diseases result from the interactions of groups of bacteria that result in a pathogenic community. We use multidisciplinary approaches that include polymicrobial culture, molecular biology, recombinant protein expression, genomics, microbiomics, transcriptomics and proteomics to describe how interactions between bacterial species are linked to disease.


Prof. Stuart Dashper

Dr. Catherine Butler

Dr. Samantha Byrne

Dr. Nada Slakeski

Dr. Christine Seers

Mr. Geoff Adams

Ms. Rita Paolini

Ms.  Deanne Catmull