Background:Many previous studies have focused on the acetaldehyde produced from ethanol by oral bacteria as a risk factor for oral cancer. Most of these studies involved low ethanol concentrations (ca. 10 mM), but oral bacteria are exposed to a wide range of ethanol concentrations (100–10,000 mM) when alcoholic beverages are consumed. In contrast, ethanol is widely used at high concentrations (> 5,000 mM) as an antiseptic/disinfectant, suggesting that ethanol has bifacial biological effects; i.e. it acts as both a metabolic substrate for bacterial acetaldehyde production and an antimicrobial agent. Materials and methods:We examined the acetaldehyde production from ethanol by oral streptococci and the effects of ethanol exposure on the growth and viability of these bacteria at a wide range of ethanol concentrations (10–10,000 mM). Results:Acetaldehyde production was the highest at an ethanol concentration of 2,000 mM (2.1–48-fold higher than that seen at an ethanol concentration of 10 mM). Bacterial growth was inhibited by > 1,000 mM of ethanol, and the bacteria did not seem viable in the presence of > 5,000 mM of ethanol, although they still produced acetaldehyde. Conclusion:Ethanol has bifacial biological effects, and the concentration ranges of these effects overlap.
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