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Azabu University launches crowdfunded study of periodontal disease in farm animals


A research group led by Associate Professor Yoshito Shimazu of the School of Life and Environmental Science, Azabu University, launched a crowdfunding project aimed at creating a society with healthy human and animal mouths on the crowdfunding website READYFOR. The aim of the project is to raise funds for research into periodontal disease in zoo and aquarium animals. The group will explore how humans and animals can co-exist by examining the mutual impact of humans and animals through "oral health." Support was sought on an all-or-nothing basis, with a goal of raising 4.18 (which can be read as "yo-i-ha", or good teeth in Japanese) million yen.

As the human population continues to age, the relationship between dental health and healthy longevity is beginning to emerge. Many zoo animals are also affected by an increase in oral disease. However, it is rare for periodontal disease to be seen in animals in the wild.

After graduating from the School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Shimazu conducted research on oral diseases at Nippon Dental University and is currently conducting research on the preventive effects of phytochemicals on oral diseases at the School of Life and Environmental Science, Azabu University.

The call for help came after he noticed several animal skeletons with evidence of periodontal disease while he was director of the Life Museum of Azabu University. So where did this periodontal disease, which is not found in wild animals, come from?

To address this question, he hypothesized that wild animals develop periodontal disease when they become captive in zoos and aquariums and tested this hypothesis by screening sea lions and their keepers for periodontal disease. The results showed that both high-pathogenic and low-pathogenic periodontopathogen bacteria were detected in all sea lions. The infection patterns of these bacteria were similar to those of the periodontopathogen bacteria of their keepers. These results suggest that cross-infection, or zoonosis, may be occurring between sea lions and their keepers.

The group is now seeking support to launch the "418 Project" to carry out a survey of captive animals at more zoos and aquariums. The funds raised will be used to pay for bacterial flora analysis and equipment to test for periodontal disease.

The project also challenges us to rethink the nature of the symbiosis between humans and animals under the banner of periodontal disease. The researchers believe that exploring the mutual influence of humans and animals through oral health and finding a new style of symbiosis will help to restore the original rich lifestyle that humans and animals have cultivated.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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