Mapping the Microbiome in Saliva of COVID-19 Patients

Alex Valm

The SUNY Research Foundation has awarded Alex Valm, PhD., Department of Biological Sciences and member of The RNA Institute, Seed Grant Funding for his project titled “Novel Technology for Mapping the Spatial Structure of the Covid-19 Salivary Microbiome”.

Microbes found in the mouth function to create a protective barrier against infection. The spatial structure of these microbial communities is strongly implicated in transitioning from a healthy to disease state. Unfortunately, little is known about how these microbes are arranged due to limitations in current microscope technology. Periodontal diseases are associated with cardiovascular disease and asthma, which also predispose to adverse SARS-Cov-2 outcomes. Understanding the structure of microbial communities found in saliva will provide needed insight to the diverse effects of the coronavirus.

Dr. Valm and his collaborators will use new imaging hardware and machine learning algorithms to greatly expand the number of microbes that can be distinguished in a single image. By comparing saliva from healthy and COVID-19 patients they hope to understand how mouth microbial communities function to prevent infection.