The pathogenic potential of Fusobacterium nucleatum and its significance in the development of periodontal diseases, as well as in infections in other organs, have gained new interest for several reasons. First, this bacterium has the potential to be pathogenic because of its number and frequency in periodontal lesions, its production of tissue irritants, its synergism with other bacteria in mixed infections, and its ability to form aggregates with other suspected pathogens in periodontal disease and thus act as a bridge between early and late colonizers on the tooth surface. Second, of the microbial species that are statistically associated with periodontal disease, F. nucleatum is the most common in clinical infections of other body sites. Third, during the past few years, new techniques have made it possible to obtain more information about F. nucleatum on the genetic level, thereby also gaining better knowledge of the structure and functions of the outer membrane proteins (OMPs). OMPs are of great interest with respect to coaggregation, cell nutrition, and antibiotic susceptibility. This review covers what is known to date about F. nucleatum in general, such as taxonomy and biology, with special emphasis on its pathogenic potential. Its possible relationship to other periodontal bacteria in the development of periodontal diseases and the possible roles played by OMPs are considered.
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