Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Dental caries as a risk factor for bacterial blood stream infection (BSI) in children undergoing hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)



Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is a potentially curative therapy for a wide range of pediatric malignant and nonmalignant diseases. However, complications, including blood stream infection (BSI) remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality. While certain bacteria that are abundant in the oral microbiome, such as S. mitis, can cause BSI, the role of the oral microbial community in the etiology of BSI is not well understood. The finding that the use of xylitol wipes, which specifically targets the cariogenic bacteria S. mutans is associated with reduced BSI in pediatric patients, lead us to investigate dental caries as a risk factor for BSI.


A total of 41 pediatric patients admitted for allogenic or autologous HCT, age 8 months to 25 years, were enrolled. Subjects with high dental caries risk were identified as those who had dental restorations completed within 2 months of admission for transplant, or who had untreated decay. Fisher's exact test was used to determine if there was a significant association between caries risk and BSI. Dental plaque and saliva were collected on a cotton swab from a subset of four high caries risk (HCR) and four low caries risk (LCR) children following pretransplant conditioning. 16SrRNA sequencing was used to compare the microbiome of HCR and LCR subjects and to identify microbes that were significantly different between the two groups.


There was a statistically significant association between caries risk and BSI (p < 0.035) (Fisher's exact test). Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed children in the high dental caries risk group were 21 times more likely to have BSI, with no significant effect of age or mucositis severity. HCR subjects showed significantly reduced microbial alpha diversity as compared to LCR subjects. LEfse metagenomic analyses, showed the oral microbiome in HCR children enriched in order Lactobacillales. This order includes Streptococcus and Lactobacillus, both which contain bacteria primarily associated with dental caries.


These findings support the possibility that the cariogenic microbiome can enhance the risk of BSI in pediatric populations. Future metagenomic analyses to measure microbial differences at, before, and after conditioning related to caries risk, may further unravel the complex relationship between the oral microbiome, and whether it affects health outcomes such as BSI.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View