Streptococcus mutans is an oral bacterium considered to play a major role in the development of dental caries. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of S. mutans in active and arrested dentine carious lesions of children with early childhood caries and to examine the expression profile of selected S. mutans genes associated with survival and virulence, within the same carious lesions. Dentine samples were collected from 29 active and 16 arrested carious lesions that were diagnosed in preschool children aged 2-5 years. Total RNA was extracted from the dentine samples, and reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR analyses were performed for the quantification of S. mutans and for analyses of the expression of S. mutans genes associated with bacterial survival (atpD, nox, pdhA) and virulence (fabM and aguD). There was no statistically significant difference in the prevalence of S. mutans between active and arrested carious lesions. Expression of the tested genes was detected in both types of carious dentine. The pdhA (p = 0.04) and aguD (p = 0.05) genes were expressed at higher levels in arrested as compared to active lesions. Our findings revealed that S. mutans is part of the viable microbial community in active and arrested dentine carious lesions. The increase in expression of the pdhA and aguD genes in arrested lesions is likely due to the unfavourable environmental conditions for microbial growth, inherent to this type of lesions.

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