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Researchers develop chewing gum to detect oral inflammation

September 05, 2017

A chewing gum-based diagnostic test developed by a pharmaceutical research team in Germany could lead to earlier detection of infected dental implants, preventing serious complications such as bone loss.
In the years after receiving a dental implant, six to 15 per cent of patients develop an inflammatory response caused by bacteria which in the worst case destroys the soft tissue and bone around the implant.
The hope is that in future, patients can benefit from a quick and affordable method assessing whether they carry such bacteria using a chewing gum-based diagnostic test developed by researchers at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany.
Their invention is described in the August issue of Nature Communications. 
How it works is when there is inflammation in the mouth, specific protein-degrading enzymes are activated that also quickly break down a special ingredient in the chewing gum. As a result, a bittering agent that could not previously be tasted is released, alerting patients that they need to see their dentist.
“Anyone can use this new diagnostic tool anywhere and anytime without any technical equipment, ” lead researcher Professor Lorenz Meinel said, adding that he anticipates it will take two to three years until the gum is commercially available.
Meanwhile chewing gum rapid tests for other medical applications are currently under development. “We hope to be able to diagnose other diseases with our ‘anyone, anywhere, anytime’ diagnostics to identify and address these diseases as early as possible, ” Professor Meinel said.