Scope of Research

The Oral Microbiome Research Laboratory explores the role of the oral microbiome and its interaction with the host in health and disease. These efforts help to improve understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of diseases—including dental caries, periodontitis, oral candidiasis and oral cancer—and to aid researchers in the development of strategies for treatment and prevention. Research efforts at the lab include

  • using nucleic acid sequencing of clinical samples to decipher changes in the composition and function of the oral microbiome.
  • understanding fungal pathogenesis to develop novel treatment strategies for oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC), which is an oral disease caused by Candida albicans in individuals with various immunodeficiencies, including AIDS.
  • developing in vitro models of the oral microbiome that replicate normobiosis and dysbiosis in high throughput format, the goal of which is to screen potential microbiome modulators such as prebiotics and probiotics.

Located on the fourth floor of the Kornberg School of Dentistry, the 725-square-foot Oral Microbiome Research Laboratory is equipped for 

  • cultivation, processing and storage of bacteria, fungi, biofilms, microbiomes and cell lines;
  • nucleic acids and proteins extraction, quantification and fragment analysis;
  • conventional and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR);
  • library preparation for sequencing;
  • chemiluminescence and fluorescence assays;
  • fluorescent imaging;
  • immunoblotting;
  • carrying out pre- and post-processing of murine models; and
  • processing human oral samples.


Recent Funding

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, R03
“Role of host iron in Candida albicans oral commensal carriage and oropharyngeal candidiasis”
April 2017–March 2019
Role: PI Sumant Puri
Amount: $237,750‬

Pennsylvania  Department of Health
“In Vitro Effects of Commensal Oral Bacteria on Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cell Lines”
June 2017–June 2019
Role: PI Nezar Al-hebshi
Amount: $200,000

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, R03
“Microbiome-host interactions in oral squamous cell carcinoma: a meta-transcriptomic exploratory study”
July 2019–June 2021
Role: PI Nezar Al-hebshi
Amount: $371,858

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, R03
“In vitro reproducible model of subgingival microbiome for high throughput screening for microbiome modulators”
July 2019–June 2021
Role: PI Nezar Al-hebshi
Amount: $342,790


Drug-resistant infections: If you can’t beat ’em, starve ’em, scientists find
University at Buffalo News Center
May 2019

Selected Publications

Al-Hebshi, N.N., Borgnakke, W.S., Johnson, N.W. The Microbiome of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas: a Functional Perspective. Current Oral Health Report 2019, 6; 145–160.

Al-hebshi, N.N., Baraniya, D., Chen, T., Hill, J., Puri, S., Tellez, M., Hasan, N.A., Colwell, R.R., Ismail, A. Metagenome sequencing-based strain-level and functional characterization of supragingival microbiome associated with dental caries in children. Journal of Oral Microbiology. 2019;11:1557986.

Al-Kamel, A., Baraniya, D., Al-Hajj, W.A., Halboub, E., Abdulrab, S., Chen, T., Al-Hebshi, N.N. Subgingival microbiome of experimental gingivitis: shifts associated with the use of chlorhexidine and N-acetyl cysteine mouthwashes. J Oral Microbiol. 2019;11(1):1608141.

Al-Kamel, A., Al-Hajj, W.A., Halboub, E., Abdulrab, S., Al-Tahami, K., Al-Hebshi, N.N. N-acetyl cysteine versus chlorhexidine mouthwashes in prevention and treatment of experimental gingivitis: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clinical Oral Investigations. 2019.

Al-Alimi, A., Halboub, E., Al-Sharabi, A.K., Taiyeb-Ali, T., Jaafar, N., Al-Hebshi, N.N. Independent determinants of periodontitis in Yemeni adults: A case-control study. Int J Dent Hyg. 2018 Nov;16(4):503511

Perera, M., Al-hebshi, N.N., Perera, I., Ipe, D., Ulett, G., Speicher, D.J., Chen, T., Johnson, N.W. The Inflammatory Bacteriome and Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Journal of Dental research 2018, Online first.

Perera, M., Al-hebshi, N.N., Perera, I., Ipe, D., Ulett, G., Speicher, D.J., Chen, T., Johnson, N.W. A Dysbiotic Mycobiome Dominated by Candida albicans is Identified within Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas. Journal of Oral Microbiology 2017, Article:1385369.

Al-hebshi, N.N., Alharbi, F.A., Mahri, M., Chen, T. Differences in the bacteriome of smokeless tobacco products with different oral carcinogenicity: compositional and predicted functional analysis. Genes 2017, 8:106

Al-hebshi, N.N., Nasher, A.T., Maryoud, M.Y., Homeida, H.E., Chen, T., Idris, I.M., Johnson, N.W. Inflammatory bacteriome featuring Fusobacterium nucleatum and Pseudomonas aeruginosa identified in association with oral squamous cell carcinoma. Scientific Reports 2017, 7:1834

Perera, M., Al-hebshi, N.N., Speicher, D.J., Perera, I., Johnson, N.W. Emerging role of bacteria in oral cancer: a review with special reference to perio-pathogenic bacteria. Journal of Oral Microbiology 2016, 8:32762.

Al-hebshi, N.N., Nasher, A.T., Speicher, D.J., Shaikh, M.H., Johnson, N.W. Possible interaction between tobacco use and EBV in oral squamous cell carcinoma. Oral Diseases 2016;59(8):e4-e5.

Al-hebshi, N.N., Li, S., Nasher, A.T., El-Setouhy, M., Alsanosi, R., Blancato, J., et al. Exome sequencing of oral squamous cell carcinoma in users of Arabian snuff reveals novel candidates for driver genes. International Journal of Cancer. 2016;139(2):363–72. 

Al-hebshi, N.N., Abdulhaq, A., Albarrag, A., Basode, V.K., Chen, T. Species-level core oral bacteriome identified by 16S rRNA pyrosequencing in a healthy young Arab population. Journal of Oral Microbiology. 2016;8:31444. 

Al-hebshi, N.N., Nasher, A.T., Idris, A.M., Chen, T. Robust species taxonomy assignment algorithm for 16S rRNA NGS reads: application to oral carcinoma samples. Journal of Oral Microbiology. 2015;7:28934. 

Al-hebshi, N.N., Al-Maswary, E.A., Al-Hammadi, Z.O., Ghoname, N. Salivary Candida species carriage patterns and their relation to caries experience among yemeni children. Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry. 2015;13(1):41–9.

Al-hebshi, N.N., Al-Alimi, A., Taiyeb-Ali, T., Jaafar, N. Quantitative analysis of classical and new putative periodontal pathogens in subgingival biofilm: a case-control study. Journal of Periodontal Research. 2015;50(3):320–9.

Al-Alimi, A., Taiyeb-Ali, T., Jaafar, N., Al-hebshi, N.N. Qat Chewing and Periodontal Pathogens in Health and Disease: Further Evidence for a Prebiotic-Like Effect. BioMed research international. 2015;2015:291305. 

Al-hebshi, N.N.,  Abdulhaq, A., Quadri, M.F.A., Tobaigy, F.M. Salivary carriage of Candida species in relation to dental caries in a population of Saudi Arabian primary school children. The Saudi Journal for Dental Research. 2015; 54–59

Puri, S., Kumar, R., Rojas, I., Salvatori, O., Edgerton, M. Iron Chelator Deferasirox Reduces Candida albicans Invasion of Oral Epithelial Cells and Infection Levels in Murine Oropharyngeal Candidiasis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2019 Mar 27;63(4)

Norris, H.L., Friedman, J., Chen, Z., Puri, S., Wilding, G., Edgerton, M. Salivary metals, age, and gender correlate with cultivable oral Candida carriage levels. Journal of Oral Microbiology. 2018 Mar; 10 (1): 1447216. PMID: 29686781

Jephthah, S.,  Henriques, J., Cragnell, C., Puri, S., Edgerton, M., Skepö, M. Structural Characterization of Histatin 5-Spermidine Conjugates: A Combined Experimental and Theoretical Study. Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. 2017 Jun; 57 (6): 1330–1341. PMID: 28586222

Du, H., Puri, S., McCall, A., Norris, H., Russo, T., Edgerton, M. Human salivary protein Histatin 5 has potent bactericidal activity against ESKAPE pathogens. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 2017 Feb 15;7:41. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2017.00041. eCollection 2017.

Puri, S., Friedman, J., Saraswat, D., Kumar, R., Li, R., Ruszaj, D., Edgerton, M. Candida albicans Shed Msb2 and Host Mucins Affect the Candidacidal Activity of Salivary Hst 5. Pathogens. 2015 Oct 30;4(4):752–63. doi: 10.3390/pathogens4040752.

Li, R., Puri, S., Tati, S., Cullen, P.J., Edgerton, M. Candida albicans Cek1 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling enhances fungicidal activity of salivary histatin 5. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2015;59(6):3460-8. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00214-15. Epub 2015 Mar 30.