Eastman Dental Institute


The Human Salivary Microbiome Is Shaped by Shared Environment Rather than Genetics

12 September 2017

The Human Salivary Microbiome Is Shaped by Shared Environment Rather than Genetics: Evidence from a Large Family of Closely Related Individuals

Liam Shaw, Andre L. R. Ribeiro, Adam P. Levine, Nikolas Pontikos, Francois Balloux, Anthony W. Segal, Adam P. Roberts, Andrew M. Smith*


This study was the first to map human genetic data with metagenomic analysis of the human salivary microbiome in a large related family.

The team carried out a study on a large family of related individuals in order to determine what shapes their salivary microbiome - the collection of organisms which live in the mouth and which can affect wider health. The study aimed to establish how the microbiome is formed and which factors are most responsible for the type and quantities of bacteria.

Samples were taken from 157 members of an extended Ashkenazi Jewish family living in four cities on three continents.  Samples were taken from a further 27 unrelated Ashkenazi Jewish individuals as a control.

It was found that the household environment is the primary driver of an individual’s oral microbiome and that human genetics does not have any significant effect; at least in this closely related family of individuals.

Understanding how the salivary microbiome is formed and maintained could open up a range of new treatments for diseases which are caused by the different types of oral bacteria*.

Read the full paper

* Dr Andrew Smith and colleagues are currently running a proof-of-concept clinical trial testing whether taking the probiotic VSL#3 can lessen the activity of the oral disease Oral Lichen Planus. Find out more