Bacteria that cause gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, frequently infect the esophageal tissues of patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), were associated with ESCC progression, and serve as a potential biomarker for ESCC. These results suggest that P gingivalis infection might be a risk factor for ESCC.1

This collaborative study was conducted at the University of Loiusville, Louisville, Kentucky, and at Henan University of Science and Technology, Luoyang, China.

Researchers examined whether P gingivalis infected the esophageal tissues from 100 patients with ESCC and from 30 healthy controls. They determined the presence of P gingivalis infection with immunohistochemistry, with measurements of a protein unique to P gingivalis, known as gingipain, and with qRT-PCR for P gingivalis DNA confirmation.

Continue Reading

Immunohistochemistry confirmed P gingivalis infection in 61% of cancerous tissues and 12% of adjacent tissues. No P gingivalis was detected in control tissue samples. The distributions of the gingipain protein and P gingivalis DNA were similar.

“These findings provide the first direct evidence that P gingivalis infection could be a novel risk factor for ESCC, and may also serve as a prognostic biomarker for this type of cancer,” said Huizhi Wang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of oral immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Louisville, Kentucky, and a coauthor of the study.

“These data, if confirmed, indicate that eradication of a common oral pathogen may contribute to a reduction in the significant number of people suffering with ESCC.”

In addition, P gingivalis infection correlated with several pathologic factors, such as metastasis, differentiation status, and overall survival. Future research should determine whether P gingivalis causes ESCC.

“Should P gingivalis prove to cause ESCC, the implications are enormous,” Wang said.

“It would suggest that improving oral hygiene may reduce ESCC risk; screening for P gingivalis in dental plaque may identify susceptible subjects; and using antibiotics or other antibacterial strategies may prevent ESCC progression.”


1. Gao S, Li S, Ma Z, et al. Presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis in esophagus and its association with the clinicopathological characteristics and survival in patients with esophageal cancer. Infect Agent Cancer. doi: 10.1186/s13027-016-0049-x.