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Dewhirst Lab

Human Microbiome Project

Understanding human health and disease has driven research in the Dewhirst lab for the past 40 years. Systemic human health is directly linked to the health of tissues in the oral cavity. The mouth is the gateway to the gastrointestinal tract, and oral sites are easily examined and sampled to address basic biological questions. The diverse basic research in the Dewhirst laboratory all connects directly or indirectly to the mouths of human subjects.


A premise of the Human Microbiome Project is that to understand human health and disease, one must understand the composition and function of the human microbiome. The Dewhirst lab has played a major role in identifying the bacteria of the oral cavity and has created the Human Oral Microbiome Database ( to provide taxonomic and genomic information to the research community. To understand the function and genetic capabilities of the oral bacteria, the lab has obtained genome sequences for more than 300 bacterial species. In recent years, the lab has sought to determine why 30 percent of the bacteria living in the oral microbiome are uncultivable using standard microbial methods. The major reason appears to be auxotroph for factors made by the bacterial community and not present in commercial media. Using novel coculture approaches, the lab has successfully cultured dozens of previously uncultured bacteria including those from the phylum Saccharibacteria (TM7s).

Lab Alumni

Andrew Collins
Palavi Murugkar
Andrew Bejian
Ana Paula Colombo

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