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Examining lung health from the mouth

Researcher Randi Jacobsen Bertelsen at Department of Clinical Science is in the final round to achieve a prestigious EU-grant. Her project aims to discover how oral hygiene is linked to lung health.

Randi Jacobsen Bertelsen
EXAMINING ORAL BACTERIA: Randi Jacobsen Bertelsen is in the final rounds for an ERC Starting Grant.
Photo:
Kim E. Andreassen

Randi Jacobsen Bertelsen at the Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB), is in the final for an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

In the project, Bertelsen is going to examine how the composition of oral bacteria influences lung disease.

“The composition of bacteria in your mouth has a lot to do with your lung health, but it could also have a strong influence on the development of infections throughout the whole body,” says Bertelsen.

“For example, research has shown that infection in the gums influences the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Examining the young and healthy

For years Bertelsen has been interested in how the environment influences the risk of developing asthma and allergy.

She has previously conducted research on how plastics and antibacterial chemicals influence asthma and allergy. In recent years, she has worked in particular to learn more abouthow these chemicals influence the composition of the bacterial community in the mouth. With new technology, researchers can map all types of bacteria in the human body.

"Previously, researchers have mainly studied older COPD-patients, in order to learn more about the links between oral bacteria and others diseases. In this new project, for which I have applied to the ERC for funding, I will study and follow up the oral hygiene to a young and healthy group of people. Specifically, I will take a closer look at the bacteria between the teeth and gums," says Bertelsen.

Important study for public health

Bertelsen has access to data from Bergen in addition to samples from study centres in Tartu in Estonia and Melbourne in Australia, which makes it possible to compare populations from different geographical areas.

“If we get more data that shows how improved oral health leads to better lung health, fewer infections and cardiovascular diseases, it means that we have discovered a single and important preventative action from the perspective of public health,” says Randi Jacobsen Bertelsen.