Though mothers are commonly thought to be the source of dental caries causing Streptococcus mutans in children, a new study has found that other extra- and intra-familial persons are as likely to be the source.
Kids commonly have multiple strains of Streptococcus mutans and usually share at least one with a family member. However, this new research has found that 72 per cent of children in the studied cohort had one or more strains that were not found within their familial group. This statistic indicates that the children’s strains were transmitted from an extra-familial source—quite possibly other children.
Stephanie Momeni, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and one of the study’s researchers, said the study quite clearly countered common assumption of Streptococcus mutans colony morphology. “While the prevailing theory on S. mutans transmission suggests mother-to-child transmission as the primary route of infection, in this study 40 per cent of children shared no strains with their mothers,” she said.
To further counter existing transmission misconceptions, the research also showed that only 27 of the studied children shared 37 of the strains with other children in their own household, including their siblings or cousins.
Though many of the children did share strains with their mother and certainly other family members, Momeni highlighted the importance of other transmission sources.
“While the data supports that S. mutans is often acquired through mother-to-child interactions, the current study illuminates the importance of child-to-child acquisition of S. mutans strains and the need to consider these routes of transmission in dental caries risk assessments, prevention and treatment strategies,” said Momeni.