Patients in the future may quickly assess whether they carry inflammation-causing bacteria in their mouth, thanks to a low-cost chewing gum-based diagnostic test developed by scientists. If there is an inflammation in the oral cavity, a bittering agent is released while chewing the gum, researchers said.
Patients can then visit their dentist to confirm the diagnosis and treat the disease. This type of early detection aims at preventing serious complications such as bone loss. "Anyone can use this new diagnostic tool anywhere and anytime without any technical equipment," said Professor Lorenz Meinel from Julius-Maximilians-Universitat (JMU) Wurzburg in Germany.
In the presence of inflammatory conditions, specific protein-degrading enzymes are activated in the mouth. In just five minutes, these enzymes also break down a special ingredient of the chewing gum, thereby releasing a bittering agent that could not be tasted before.
The team provided proof that the new diagnostic tool actually works and published the results in the journal Nature Communications. To launch the chewing gum into the market, the team plans to set up a company. Meinel believes that it will take two to three years until the gum is commercially available.
"We hope to be able to diagnose other diseases with our 'anyone, anywhere, anytime' diagnostics to identify and address these diseases as early as possible," Meinel said.