The ultimate goal of the Paster lab is to determine the bacterial etiologies of a variety of oral diseases or afflictions, such as rampant caries in children, halitosis, periodontitis, refractory periodontitis, necrotizing ulcerative periodontitis in HIV subjects, and noma, a facial gangrene that primarily affects malnourished children in developing countries. In collaboration with Dr. Floyd Dewhirst, they defined the microbial diversity of the human oral cavity, witch is collectively comprised of about 700 bacterial species. Approxiamtely 30 percent of these species still cannot be grown in culture.
Presently, Dr. Paster’s research focuses in three major areas. The first involves the microbiome of adolescents who were perinatally-infected with HIV. An important finding was that although HIV-infected youth have more caries than HIV exposed but uninfected children, their oral microbiomes do not differ from the control groups. The second involves an ongoing study on the progression of periodontal disease. An important finding was that there may be “danger” microbial profiles that may serve as biomarkers to assess the risk of periodontal disease before there are clinical signs. Early detection of most diseases will allow for better treatment. The last area involves a new interest in looking at the impact of circadian rhythm on the oral microbiome. Such studies will help decipher relations between the microbiome, the immune system, and the circadian clock—all important players in human health. These data may provide new treatments regimens that focus on circadian rhythm.
University of Rhode Island, BS, 1975, Microbiology
University of Massachusetts, PhD, 1981, Microbiology