Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract Host responses to periodontal infections include the production of several families of enzymes that are released by stromal, epithelial or inflammatory cells. Study of these enzymes in gingival crevicular fluid may lead to insights into pathogenesis and may provide a rational basis for the development of novel diagnostic tests. However, analogous to other diagnostic interventions in dentistry and medicine, validation of host enzymes as diagnostic indicators is dependent on clear-cut demonstrations of the identity of the enzyme, reproducibility, diagnostic accuracy and clinical utility. The enzyme of interest should be readily measured over a broad range of disease severity and in varied clinical settings. Ideally, the enzyme should also be an essential component of proposed pathogenic mechanisms. In this context, the connective tissue matrix degrading enzymes elastase, collagenase and gelatinase are promising because of their apparently central role in periodontal attachment loss and disease progression. Sensitive and specific assays are also available to quantify these enzymes. Other work on enzymes associated with cell death (aspartate aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase) and several neutrophil lysosomal enzymes (beta glucuronidase, arylsulphatase, cathepsins) has demonstrated positive associations between enzyme levels and attachment loss and inflammation. While numerous cross-sectional studies have indicated that the levels of hydrolytic enzymes in gingival crevicular fluid parallel the severity of periodontal lesions, there are much less data on reproducibility, diagnostic accuracy and clinical utility in longitudinal studies. As appropriate study design is an essential prerequisite for establishing the efficacy of host enzymes as diagnostic tests, future clinical investigations should include: (1) individuals who would most likely benefit by early diagnosis, i.e., rapidly progressive and recurrent periodontitis cases; (2) longitudinal, cohort study designs to show that attachment loss is temporally linked with large increases in enzyme activity; (3) the use of a battery of tests to overcome intrinsic problems of low predictive values when prevalence of active disease is low. In the final analysis, the utility of host enzymes as diagnostic indicators will need to be examined in randomized controlled trials in which the question is asked: are patients better off as a result of testing?
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