Deep sequencing identifies ethnicity-specific bacterial signatures in the oral microbiome

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 23;8(10):e77287. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077287. eCollection 2013.


Oral infections have a strong ethnic predilection; suggesting that ethnicity is a critical determinant of oral microbial colonization. Dental plaque and saliva samples from 192 subjects belonging to four major ethnicities in the United States were analyzed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (t-RFLP) and 16S pyrosequencing. Ethnicity-specific clustering of microbial communities was apparent in saliva and subgingival biofilms, and a machine-learning classifier was capable of identifying an individual's ethnicity from subgingival microbial signatures. The classifier identified African Americans with a 100% sensitivity and 74% specificity and Caucasians with a 50% sensitivity and 91% specificity. The data demonstrates a significant association between ethnic affiliation and the composition of the oral microbiome; to the extent that these microbial signatures appear to be capable of discriminating between ethnicities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Asian*
  • Bacterial Infections / ethnology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Biofilms
  • Black or African American*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Species Specificity
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People*


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S