HKU Faculty of Dentistry to launch first ever research project on pregnant women’s oral health in Mainland China

The Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will conduct the first-ever research study in China to investigate a broad spectrum of oral-gut microbiomes and beyond as well as related systemic conditions including immunological profiles in pregnant mothers and newborn babies.

This pioneering study may lead to the establishment of novel health management programme for precise prevention and personalised healthcare in women and children.

The two-year project, entitled “Women’s Oral/Periodontal Status and Related Mother-Infant Health: Metagenomics- and Ramanomics based Assessment of Microbiome & Clinical Applications”, is led by Professor Lijian Jin, Modern Dental Laboratory Professor in Clinical Dental Science and Clinical Professor in Periodontology at HKU.

It is supported by a HKD3.28 million grant from the Shenzhen Science & Technology Innovation Commission – Shenzhen/Hong Kong Innovation Circle Programme.

Professor Jin’s team will work in close collaboration with Dr Jilong Yao’s team from the Shenzhen Maternity & Child Healthcare Hospital, and Professor Jian Xu’s group from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy & Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Professor Jin said: “This new project gives us a great opportunity to investigate the close link between oral/periodontal status and systemic health during the crucial period of prenatal care, pregnancy and postnatal lactation.” He said by identifying the dynamic profiles of oral microbiomes and related systemic conditions in pregnant women via deep analysis of saliva and other body fluids, it can be beneficial for health monitoring and help evaluate potential adverse risks.

The study aims to:

  1. assess the oral, intestinal and other microbial profiles as well as related systemic conditions and immune responses in women with various oral/periodontal (gum) health status during pregnancy and the postpartum period, as well as the corresponding microbiomes in their newborns;
  2. identify the characteristic biomarkers via the cutting-edge metagenomic and ramanomic approaches; and
  3. predict the potential risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and thereby enhance healthcare for mothers and newborns.

Professor Jin further said: “The American Academy of Periodontology made professional recommendations and guidelines of periodontal healthcare for pregnant women as far back as 2004. However, at present, there are no well-established national guidelines and schemes in promoting oral/periodontal health and care of pregnant women and their newborn babies. With a concerted effort, we hope to generate new scientific evidence and contribute to establishing an integrated framework of precision oral healthcare for general health and wellbeing of women and children in China and beyond.”