News Archive

Dr. Eimear Hurley, Recipient of HRB Research Award 2012

2 Oct 2012

Dr. Eimear Hurley was successful in her application to the Health Research Board for a Research Award 2012 to fund her PhD research investigating the Oral Microbiota of babies and pre-schoolers (ORALMET). 


The title of Eimear’s research is “The Oral Microbiota of Irish Children; a baseline and longitudinal study in health and disease”.

The oral cavity is a complex niche, reflected by its complex microbial community. The microorganisms found in the oral cavity are referred to as the oral microbiota and the collection of genes that these bacteria carry is the oral microbiome. This oral microbiome is intimately related to health and disease, and although there is a shift in the microbial composition in disease, few studies have demonstrated this with molecular methods in longitudinal studies.

The identification of the oral microbiota of Irish children has not been studied to date and is now possible with the establishment of culture-independent microbiota profiling in Cork.
Longitudinal investigation of the oral microbiota in infants would be the first research of its kind to be done in Ireland. The microbiota data we will collect
will constitute a developing ‘picture’ and a bank of information for future studies on prevention of dental caries, and promotion of oral health in Irish
children. The goal of this research is to identify the oral microbiome in health and disease alongside the factors that are associated with the
development of both states with the ultimate goal of developing new effective methods of preventing disease through promoting a healthy microbiome in youngchildren.

This research is led by Dr.Paul O’Toole. He is a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, and a Principal Investigator in the Genomics and Metagenomics Core of the Alimentary PharmabioticCentre (APC), with an interest in the functional genomics of commensal lactobacilli, and their interaction with the microbiota. He is also an SFI Principal Investigator, and leads the DAFF/HRB FHRI project ELDERMET. Co-Supervisors include Professor Martin Kinirons, Professor Helen Whelton, Professor Tony Ryan AND Dr. Catherine Staunton.

This ORALMET project is bridged with the INFANTMET study, led by Dr Catherine Stanton,Teagasc Moorepark, and involves a partnership between Professor. Tony Ryan of CORK University Maternity Hospital and University College Cork. The objective of the INFANTMET study is to define the composition and functional performance of the baseline gut microbiota in developing breast fed infants over time. Because the oral cavity is often the first point of entry of bacteria into the body, there are likely to be important interactions or seeding phenomena between the oral microbiota and other niches, such as the gut. This project will link to, and add value to the INFANTMET study, which will investigate the development of the gut microbiota from birth. Thus the proposed research will allow an in-depth analysis of the interaction between the microbiota in the mouth and that in the gut.

The award of this funding it is the start of an exciting relationship between the clinical oral side here in Cork Dental School & Hospital and the basic and applied microbiology side, representing great potential for translational research and new discovery.

Cork University Dental School & Hospital

Wilton, Cork, Ireland,