Professor of Oral Biology
College of Dentistry
A link between gum disease and heart disease? Through her work on the mechanisms of bacterial parhogenesis (a disease caused by bacteria), molecular microbiologist Ann Progulske-Fox has discovered a link between bacteria that cause plaque build-up on the gums and the bacteria that cause plaque build-up around the heart.
Her laboratory was the first to discover that the bacterial species that causes periodontal or gum disesase is able to invade the tissues of the cardiovascular system. Progulske-Fox’s work on Porhpyromonas gingivalis, the anaerobic bacteria associated with periodontal disease, has generated breakthrough findings about the molecular bases of adhesion and invasion of the area around the teeth. As a result of this discovery, her laboratory is developing a vaccine for forms of periodontal disease that may also have relevance for cardiovascular disease.
Along with her colleagues in oral biology, Progulske-Fox is exploring the utility of the new In Vivo Induced Antigen Technology (IVIAT) for identifying specific disease-producing genes that are ideal for vaccine, antimicrobial and diagnostic purposes in any microbial pathogen. This may be valuable for vaccine development or as a diagnostic method for a variety of diseases. Worldwide, more than 30 laboratories are using this technology and applying it to a variety of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has funded Progulske-Fox’s research for the past 15 years; more recently, her research has been funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Her findings using IVIAT technology have been published in several international journals, including Trends in Microbiology. She is frequently invited to present her work at international research meetings and is a member of the American Society for Microbiology board of scientific and public affairs, which works directly with members of Congress, the White House and federal agencies on issues of public health funding and policy.
Progulske-Fox was recently named director of the new UF Center for Molecular Microbiology. The center hosts faculty from several colleges who are involved in human and animal infectious disease research.