Oral Microbiology & Immunology

Research group
Active research
Project owner
Department of Oral Microbiology & Immunology, Institute of Odontology

Short description

The research activities at the department of oral microbiology & immunology involve studies on microorganisms present in the oral cavity and their interactions with the immune system. Furthermore, immune function in health and during oral diseases is studied.

Biology of oral inflammation

Inflammation is central to our well-being in that it defends our bodies from potentially harmful microbes, but if the process is dysregulated it may at the same time cause a variety of diseases (e.g., periodontitis) by causing damage to our own cells and tissues. Neutrophil granulocytes, a type of leukocytes, are critical component of acute inflammation. These cells are remarkable efficient in finding, devouring and killing of microbes that have entered the body. Neutrophils are filled with a variety of molecules for the killing and digestion of microbes, but these compounds also have the potential to cause damage to surrounding cells and tissues.

In the research group, a variety of projects are ongoing, aiming to better understand how neutrophils interact with microbes, for example such encountered in the oral cavity, and how the activity of neutrophils affects the regulation of various immune processes.

Project Facts

Project Manager:
Johan Bylund

+ Vetenskapsrådet
+ Gustaf V:s 80-årsfond
+ Hjärt-Lungfonden

Cytotoxic cells in oral cancer

Our adaptive and innate immunity constitute a broad defense against cancer with cytotoxic lymphocytes as key players. The cytotoxic lymphocytes are, however, sensitive to immune suppressive factors released by malignant and non-malignant cells in the microenvironment. The oral cavity is a very complex milieu with various microbes and immune cells, and even more so during malignancies and pre-malignant states. What decides if a pre-malignant state will remain benign or develop into oral cancer, is yet to be found. The purpose of this project is to increase the understanding of cellular functions of cytotoxic lymphocytes in oral cancers and in pre-malignant states. Malignancies in the oral cavity are often detected by dentists during routine examinations. Clinical observations and characteristics may be explained by basic cell mechanisms that provide novel biomarkers for earlier diagnosis and improved prognosis. Better understanding of immune cell functions in oral cancers will hopefully lead to development of targeted treatment strategies with less side-effects and improved quality of life among the affected patients.

Project Facts

Project Manager:
Karin Christensson

Saliva, oral microbiome and inflammatory markers in connection with treatment of cancer of the head and neck region

Cancer of the head and neck region and its’ treatment leads to many complications for both oral and general health. Reduced salivary secretion rate is a common complication because the major salivary glands are often included in the radiation field. Saliva has many important functions in the oral cavity such as to moisturize, protect and lubricate the soft tissues and teeth. Saliva contains a large number of proteins of which many can inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Another common side effect of cancer treatment is oral mucositis, an inflammation in the oral mucosa, which can be very painful and make it difficult for the patients to perform oral hygiene. A reduced salivary secretion and poor oral hygiene promotes the growth of bacteria and to colonization of microorganisms associated with oral disorders, triggering the immune defense. An increased level of cytokines associated with inflammation is seen during cancer treatment. A reduced level of streptococci, associated with good oral health, has been reported in patients with severe mucositis compared with those with mild mucositis.


To follow salivary secretion rate and saliva composition, inflammatory markers and oral microbiome in patients undergoing treatment of cancer of the head and neck region before, during and up to three months post treatment.

Patients and methods

Patients are recruited by dental hygienists in five regions. Data is collected before starting cancer treatment, every week during radiation therapy and one and three months after completed treatment. Clinical data including registration of oral mucositis (Oral mucositis assessment scale), dental plaque and gingival bleeding are collected. The stimulated salivary secretion is determined and saliva is saved pending analysis. Salivary proteins will be analyzed as well as the oral microbiome (in saliva and dental plaque samples). Inflammatory markers will be analyzed in saliva samples. The project will generate new knowledge, which can be used to improve the odontological care for patients undergoing treatment of cancer of the head and neck region.

Project Facts

Project Manager:
Annica Almståhl

+ Cancerfonden
+ FRF-stiftelsen