Serum antibodies to commensal oral and gut bacteria vary with age

FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1996 Aug;15(1):35-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.1996.tb00356.x.


This study examined the relationship between serum antibody levels to selected bacteria from the commensal oral and gut flora with increased age in a healthy adult population. A total of 116 healthy subjects were studied consisting of the following age groups: 20-39 years (group A), 40-59 years (group B), 60-79 years (group C) and 80+ years (group D). Only significantly lower mean IgM antibody levels to Streptococcus mutans strain Guy's serotype c were observed in older age groups (P < 0.001). With Actinomyces viscosus NCTC 10951 significantly reduced IgM levels (P < 0.02) and significantly elevated IgA levels were observed with increased age (P < 0.05). IgA and IgG antibodies to Escherichia coli NCTC 10418 were increased significantly in the older age groups (P < 0.001), whilst a trend toward lower levels of IgM antibodies was recorded with age. No changes in IgA antibodies to Streptococcus faecalis NCTC 775 were observed but the lowest level of IgM antibodies were detected in the oldest age group (P < 0.05). Mean specific activity was decreased with age with IgM antibodies to the oral bacteria and increased with age with IgG and IgA antibodies to E. coli. Overall, our results suggest a general reduction in serum IgM antibody responses. This impairment in the circulatory IgM immune response may contribute to the increased occurrence of infections in the elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomyces viscosus / immunology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood*
  • Enterococcus faecalis / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin M / analysis
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Streptococcus mutans / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M