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Patients Own Dental Plaque may Cause Ventilator-associated Pneumonia

A recent statistical study shows that as many as 25 percent of all patients admitted to the ICU and placed on ventilators develop pneumonia, which can be fatal. //

Ventilator-associated pneumonia is a major cause of infection in the hospital, and studies have shown that this infection can add $40,000 to costs and double the length of stay of the patient in the hospital.

Ironically, it turns out that the patient’s own dental plaque is a major source of germs that cause ventilator-associated pneumonia.

In results to be presented today (March 23, 2007) at the International Association of Dental Research (IADR), researchers from the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine show that the same bacteria identified in dental plaque of patients when they were admitted to the ICU and placed on ventilators were found later in the lungs from those who subsequently developed pneumonia.

"Our study shows that a strong relationship exists between oral and respiratory pathogens in patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia," said Paul Heo, D.D.S., a doctoral student in the UB dental school’s Department of Oral Biology and first author on the study.

"We are saying that if the patients’ mouths and teeth aren’t cleaned while they are in the hospital, they may easily develop lung disease."

The presentation is part of a three-year longitudinal, double-blind study funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and headed by Frank A. Scannapieco, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Oral Biology.

The trial aims to determine if swabbing ventilated ICU patients’ mouths with a bactericide protects them from developing pneumonia.

In this component, Heo and colleagues concentrated on three strains of suspected pathogens that are responsible for most hospital-acquired pneumonia: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Sample
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