Links between the oral and gut microbiome and pediatric autoimmunity

Technology Overview

Anne StevensDr. Anne StevensThe microbial populations of our mouths and intestines change with our diet, with age, and with health or disease. In adults, the oral microbiome is linked to chronic inflammation around the teeth, or periodontitis. This condition has a high prevalence in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and periodontal treatment can reduce symptoms of RA. Dr. Stevens is studying correlations between the oral and intestinal microbiome and two pediatric autoimmune diseases, juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM). Her results could inform the monitoring and treatment of these conditions.

The Stevens lab collects saliva, dental plaque, stool, and blood samples from children with JIA or JDM and healthy controls, along with their family members. Other data sources include dietary reports. Oral and stool samples are used for metagenomic sequencing to characterize the microbial populations. Blood samples are used to measure biomarkers of autoimmunity and inflammation. Collaborators at the University of Washington School of Dentistry evaluate the children for gingivitis, an inflammatory condition that is a precursor to periodontitis.

Dr. Stevens and her colleagues have found that JIA is associated with gingivitis, with a skewed microbial profile both in dental plaque and fecal. An advantage of studying the association between the microbiome and autoimmunity in children is they have less disease-associated damage than adults. Interventions to prevent disease progression may have greater effects.

One mechanism by which the microbiome may affect autoimmunity is through dietary fiber, which is converted by intestinal bacteria into short-chain fatty acids that regulate immunity. Knowing more about the connection between what children eat, their oral and gut microbiome, and immune regulation could lead to dietary or oral hygiene interventions that slow the progression and reduce the long-term effects of juvenile autoimmunity.

Stage of Development

  • Preclinical in vivo
  • Preclinical ex vivo
  • Translational

Partnering Opportunities

  • Collaborative research opportunity
  • Sponsored research agreement
  • Clinical trials
  • Tissue sample access


  1. Sriharsha G., Lee P, Leroux B, Ringold, S., Darveau, R,..Stevens A. Oral health and plaque microbial profile in juvenile idiopathic arthritis. (submitted). 

Learn More

To learn more about partnering with Seattle Children’s Research Institute on this or other projects, please contact:

Dr. Elizabeth Aylward, Director 
Office of Science-Industry Partnerships 
Seattle Children’s Research Institute 
818 Stewart Street, Suite 603
Seattle, WA 98101