Oral colonization with Actinomyces species in infants by two years of age

J Dent Res. 2000 Mar;79(3):864-7. doi: 10.1177/00220345000790031301.


In early childhood, the human mouth is already colonized by actinomycetes. Due to recent taxonomic changes within the genus Actinomyces, up-to-date data are warranted on the time and succession of different Actinomyces species in the oral cavity. By using a longitudinal study design and culture techniques, we examined the age-related occurrence of Actinomyces species in saliva from 39 healthy infants at 2, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months of age. Altogether 428 Actinomyces isolates were available for this study. Identification was based on biochemical tests and gas chromatographic demonstration of metabolic end-products, and when needed, cellular fatty acid profiles were determined. The frequency of the total actinomycetal flora increased from 31% to 97% within 2 years. A. odontolyticus was the most prominent Actinomyces colonizer at all five sampling occasions. A. naeslundii was the second most common Actinomyces sp. but was not detected before the age of 1 year. As a novel observation, we found A. graevenitzii in the oral cavity. The number of A. graevenitzii isolates indicates that this species is not just occasionally present in infants' mouths. We also found A. viscosus, A. gerencseriae, A. israelii, and A. georgiae. Based on the present results, we suggest that A. odontolyticus is the main primary Actinomyces species on oral mucosal surfaces in infants up to 2 years of age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomyces / classification
  • Actinomyces / isolation & purification*
  • Age Factors
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mouth Mucosa / microbiology*