According to a research team headed by Dr. Ann Wood at King's College, London, certain isolated bacteria can grow on and 'mop up' smelly compounds in the mouth that are linked to bad breath. The same methods of isolation have also been earlier used to earmark bacteria that causes feet to smell.
In the mouth these smelly and highly reactive 'one'carbon' compounds are said to be naturally produced from the breakdown of sulphur-containing amino acids - a combination that can also cause a sour taste to pervade.
Reported in the August issue of Environmental Microbiology, odour-eating methylotrophic bacteria were isolated from the tongue, tooth plaque and gum edge of volunteers. The bacteria is made up of a number of strains, including Bacillus and Micrococcus luteus that are all known to fight certain other bacteria.
According to the scientists, the discovery could lead to a natural way of destroying bad odours in both the mouth and the feet that could be incorporated into either topical or oral treatments.
Although the composition of oral bacteria has been extensively studied in the past, it has not been recognised that the methylotrophic bacteria form a normal part of the oral microbial composition, and, equally, a means of naturally fighting these odours.
The research team also reported that the there was no difference in the composition of the oral bacteria strains between healthy volunteers and those suffering from gum disease.
The team says that it is still working on establishing whether or not those suffering from gum disease or bad breath might have low levels of methylotrophic bacteria in the mouth, but if this proves correct it will make the evidence far more compelling.
Either way, oral care and foot care specialist will be keen to find out whether this relationship does exist. If the answer is 'yes', the next stage of research will be to establish exactly how these findings can be incorporated into future treatments.