uBiome Grant Will Enable UCSF Scientist to Explore ‘Spit Test’ to Predict Blood Infections in Young Bone Marrow Transplant Patients

The advanced technology offered by uBiome may enable us to detect harmful oral bacteria before they endanger the lives of these children – with just a bit saliva.

uBiome, the leader in microbial genomics, has issued its latest Microbiome Impact Grant award to pediatric dentist and scientist Dr. Jeremy Horst of UCSF School of Medicine, who, along with colleagues in the UCSF Children’s Oral Health Research Center, is carrying out research into the use of the oral microbiome as a non-invasive way of predicting and preventing blood infections in immunocompromised young bone marrow transplant patients.

Bone marrow transplants are used in order to replace damaged or diseased cells with non-cancerous stem cells that can, in turn, grow new, healthy cells. These transplants tend to be used when treatments for cancer have destroyed the bone marrow’s normal stem cells. Bone marrow, which is found at the core of bones, is where the body manufactures blood cells.

Bone marrow transplants can be either allogeneic or autologous. Allogeneic transplants occur when bone marrow is received from a donor. In autologous transplants, the patient’s own bone marrow is used, after being collected, frozen, and stored until it is needed – following chemotherapy, for example.

Blood infections pose a considerable risk during bone marrow transplants, so being able to predict and prevent them is critical. Dr. Horst’s study aims to explore the use of the oral microbiome as a predictive diagnostic for blood infections in pediatric patients who are immunocompromised, a common phenomenon during transplant procedures. Having a weakened immune system, technically known as immunodeficiency, is a state in which the immune system’s ability to fight infectious disease and cancer is either compromised or entirely absent.

The potential to use the oral microbiome as a marker for the blood microbiome would offer considerable benefits, particularly because of its non-invasive nature.

Dr. Horst is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department at UCSF School of Medicine, specializing in Biochemistry and Infectious Diseases. He received his PhD for studies in Oral and Computational Biology at the University of Washington, after also first…

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