Effect of red blood cells on the growth of Porphyromonas endodontalis and microbial community development

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Establishment of a microbial community in the root canal system depends on numerous factors, of which nutrient availability may be one of the most important. We hypothesized that the presence of red blood cells or hemoglobin in this environment could cause shifts in microbial composition of communities, resulting in organisms such as Porphyromonas endodontalis becoming more dominant. An in vitro model system using mixed, batch cultures was performed with the bacteria P. endodontalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Peptostreptococcus micros andCampylobacter rectus. Bacteria were cultured in media with or without the addition of washed red blood cells, hemoglobin, or serum. Cyclic growth studies revealed that P. endodontalis was lost from the community of organisms after three cycles. However, inclusion of red blood cells resulted in establishment of this organism. Moreover, red blood cells added to pure cultures of P. endodontalis substantially enhanced growth and protected the organisms from oxygen. We conclude that the presence of red blood cells could result in shifts of microbial communities of organisms within the root canal system.

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