Polyphenols, a class of phytochemicals abundant in red wine grapes, appear to reduce the ability of bacteria to cause cavities, according to a Rochester University Medical Center study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The findings suggest that specific polyphenols, present in large amounts in fermented seeds and grape skins, interfere with the ability of bacteria to form the sticky biofilms that contribute to tooth decay. Beyond cavities, the compounds' action suggests a new way to block the kind of bacterial biofilms that cause life-threatening, internal infections.
Such an approach embodies the emerging recognition that anti-bacterial drug design needs to move beyond bacteria-killing antibiotics toward drugs that don't, by their nature, favor the success of resistant strains. By taking away a microbe's ability to cause disease but leaving it in place, the grape compounds may do just that.
"The message is not 'drink more wine to fight bacteria,'" says (spoilsport) Rochester researcher Hyun Koo, DDS, Ph.D., of the medical center's Center for Oral Biology. "We hope to isolate the key compounds within the winemaking waste that render bad bacteria harmless, perhaps in the mouth with a new kind of rinse."
The research team cultured oral bacteria on fake tooth enamel (photo) to test their grape compounds' biofilm blocking activity.