Invasion of periodontal tissues by different bacterial morphotypes has been reported in human periodontitis; however, limited information is available as to prevalence, localization and the bacterial species involved. The present study determined prevalence and gingival localization of Actinobacillus (Haemophilus) actinomycetemcomitans in periodontal lesions of juvenile periodontitis patients. Thirty-five gingival biopsies were obtained from 12 juvenile periodontitis patients at the time of periodontal therapy. One additional control biopsy was obtained from each of two adult periodontally healthy subjects, one adult periodontitis patient and one periodontally healthy monkey (Macaca fosibolius). The biopsies were carefully processed to avoid mechanical introduction of bacteria into the tissues and were examined using light and electron microscopy. Rabbit antisera specific for the three A. actinomycetemcomitans serotypes were used for immunofluorescence microscopic localization of A. actinomycetemcomitans antigens in the gingival sections. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed A. actinomycetemcomitans specific antigens in the gingival tissues of 11 of the 12 juvenile patients examined. None of the control specimens showed evidence of A. actinomycetemcomitans antigens in the gingival connective tissue. One specimen from a periodontally healthy subject and the monkey biopsy, however, showed A. actinomycetemcomitans antigens in bacterial plaque on the surface of the crevicular epithelium. Transmission electron microscopic examination showed microcolonies of small gram-negative rods in the connective tissue, as well as single bacterial cells between collagen fibers and in areas of cell debris. In addition to these extracellular bacterial cells, evidence of bacterial cells was also found within gingival connective tissue phagocytic cells. The data from the present study suggest that the gingival tissue in juvenile periodontitis lesions harbors A. actinomycetemcomitans.
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