Noma Affected Children from Niger Have Distinct Oral Microbial Communities Based on High-Throughput Sequencing of 16S rRNA Gene Fragments
- Published: December 04, 2014
- DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003240
We aim to understand the microbial ecology of noma (cancrum oris), a devastating ancient illness which causes severe facial disfigurement in>140,000 malnourished children every year. The cause of noma is still elusive. A chaotic mix of microbial infection, oral hygiene and weakened immune system likely contribute to the development of oral lesions. These lesions are a plausible entry point for unidentified microorganisms that trigger gangrenous facial infections. To catalog bacteria present in noma lesions and identify candidate noma-triggering organisms, we performed a cross-sectional sequencing study of 16S rRNA gene amplicons from sixty samples of gingival fluid from twelve healthy children, twelve children suffering from noma (lesion and healthy sites), and twelve children suffering from Acute Necrotizing Gingivitis (ANG) (lesion and healthy sites). Relative to healthy individuals, samples taken from lesions in diseased mouths were enriched with Spirochaetes and depleted for Proteobacteria. Samples taken from healthy sites of diseased mouths had proportions of Spirochaetes andProteobacteria that were similar to healthy control individuals. Samples from noma mouths did not have a higher abundance of Fusobacterium, casting doubt on its role as a causative agent of noma. Microbial communities sampled from noma and ANG lesions were dominated by the same Prevotella intermedia OTU, which was much less abundant in healthy sites sampled from the same mouths. Multivariate analysis confirmed that bacterial communities in healthy and lesion sites were significantly different. Several OTUs in the Orders Erysipelotrichales, Clostridiales, Bacteroidales, and Spirochaetales were identified as indicators of noma, suggesting that one or more microbes within these Orders is associated with the development of noma lesions. Future studies should include longitudinal sampling of viral and microbial components of this community, before and early in noma lesion development.
Noma is a traumatic disease characterized by oral-facial lesions that often lead to severe disfigurement and ultimately shame and isolation from the community. Because the causes of noma are likely to be numerous, and reaching those who suffer from this illness is challenging, the etiology of noma remains ill-defined. Although it is known that oral hygiene and nutrition influence the development of noma, evidence suggests that one or more microbes play a crucial role in development of noma lesions. Previous studies have examined the DNA of microbes in lesions to determine which species are present and how their abundances differ between healthy mouth sites and noma lesions. These studies used techniques that were state-of-the-art at the time, though we know they likely only scratched the surface of the resident microbial diversity. Here we extend these studies by digging deeper to characterize a larger diversity of microbial species in noma and control samples, with the goal of better identifying which microbes are uniquely present or have altered abundances in noma lesions