While studying the intricacies of severe early childhood caries (S-ECC), researchers have identified Candida albicans, a pathogenic fungus, as a key player in the development of oral health issues in infants. The study, conducted with a prospective mother-infant cohort, delved into the extent of the mother’s role in transmitting C. albicans to their children, providing crucial insights for dental practitioners.
The research involved 160 mother-child dyads, with oral samples collected during pregnancy and from birth to two years of age. Whole-genome sequencing was employed to analyze the genetic information of C. albicans isolates, and Multilocus Sequence Typing was used to examine the genetic relatedness between mothers and their offspring.
The findings unveiled a significant maternal influence, with 58.1% of mother-child pairs exhibiting C. albicans oral colonization. eBURST analysis revealed 16 clonal complexes, with clade 1 being the most prevalent, comprising 54.6% of isolates. Strikingly, 94% of mothers and children with oral C. albicans had highly genetically related strains, underscoring the substantial role of maternal transmission.
Factors such as race, ethnicity, delivery method, and feeding behaviors did not exhibit a significant association with C. albicans vertical transmission. However, the mother’s oral hygiene status, as reflected by the plaque index (PI), emerged as a crucial factor. Mothers with higher dental plaque accumulation (PI >=2) had a significantly increased risk of vertically transmitting C. albicans to their infants, with an odds ratio of 8.02 (95% confidence interval: 1.21, 53.24, p=0.03).
Additionally, the study highlighted that Black infants and those attending daycare had an elevated risk of acquiring C. albicans through horizontal transmission (p <0.01). These findings underscore the importance of considering maternal oral health in preventing fungal transmission during early infancy.
The researchers suggest that incorporating screening for maternal fungal oral carriage and implementing oral health education programs during the perinatal stage may prove valuable in preventing early childhood caries. This research provides dentists with critical insights, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach that considers both maternal and environmental factors in pediatric oral health care.