Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Biology, PhD

Committee Chair

Ewald, Paul

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Crespo, Fabian

Committee Member

Crespo, Fabian

Committee Member

Lamont, Richard

Committee Member

Yoder-Himes, Deborah

Committee Member

Himes, Paul

Committee Member

Dugatkin, Lee

Author's Keywords

alcohol; ethanol; periodontitis; atherosclerosis; Porphyromonas gingivalis; chronic disease


This dissertation is an investigation into the relationships among Porphyromonas gingivalis, ethanol, and a series of chronic diseases, focusing primarily on atherosclerosis. It uses evolutionary theory to understand clinical parameters related to chronic disease biology. The initial research question was, "If people who drink a glass of wine each day have a lower risk for atherosclerosis, could one explanation involve antibacterial effects on pathogens associated with causing atherosclerosis, namely, Porphyromonas gingivalis?". This dissertation is divided into four chapters. Chapter One provides the foundational information pertinent to the dissertation. Chapter Two describes an in- vitro experiment aimed at understanding how ethanol influences planktonic Porphyromonas gingivalis. Chapter Three details an in-vitro experiment aimed at learning how ethanol influences Porphyromonas gingivalis when it exists in a biofilm. Chapter Four explores how Porphyromonas gingivalis and ethanol influence rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, chronic kidney disease, and type II diabetes. Chapters Two and Three provide primary information resulting from experiments that I designed and performed, while Chapter Four is more theoretical in nature. The experiments detailed in Chapters Two and Three were designed to understand how ethanol may differentially impact Porphyromonas gingivalis in the bloodstream relative to the oral cavity. The value of this dissertation lies in the synthesis of new ideas related to how the most widely used drug (ethanol) can influence the leading cause of death worldwide, heart disease. The use of ethanol as a systemic antimicrobial agent with regards to chronic infectious diseases has generally been overlooked. The hypothesis that ethanol consumption suppresses P. gingivalis growth in the blood, but not the oral cavity, is supported by experiments and a review of the literature presented in this dissertation.