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NYUCD Receives NIH Funding to Study Development of Caries in HIV-Positive Women

Dr. Stefanie Russell
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded NYUCD a two-year, $230,000 grant to assess whether HIV-positive women have a higher risk of developing caries than HIV-negative women.

The study is being conducted by Dr. Stefanie Russell, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, using results gathered from the Womenís Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken to collect data on the systemic health and oral health of HIV-infected women. Dr. Russellís study compares caries development in 892 seropositive women and 125 seronegative women who participated in WIHS at U.S. colleges and research centers, including NYUCD, from 1995 through 2004. The study was conducted under the joint sponsorship of the NIDCR, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An initial analysis of the data gathered during WIHSís first five years showed that HIV-infected women have significantly more caries than seronegative women. But the reasons for the difference were unclear, Dr. Russell said.

In her new study, Dr. Russell takes a broader approach, examining the incidence of caries over the full nine years of WIHS, and the role of possible risk factors, including demographics (income, education, race/ethnicity); behavior (smoking, illicit drug use, oral hygiene, and use of dental services); the impact of HIV medications that cause a decrease in saliva flow; the influence of other oral health problems, such as periodontal disease; and the severity of HIV infection. Dr. Russell said she would examine whether xerostomia (dry mouth) and salivary gland hypofunction (diminished functional activity) -- which appear to be significantly higher in HIV-positive women -- may be linked to caries development.

Dr. Russellís coinvestigators are Dr. Joan Phelan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine; Dr. Evelyn Nelson, Assistant Professor of Cariology and Comprehensive Care and of Epidemiology & Health Promotion; and Dr. Robert Norman, Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, all at NYUCD; and Dr. Wei Gao, a biostatistician in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health at Montefiore Medical Center.

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