Bacteria could play a role in the development of oral cancer, a new study has found.

The discovery could assist with finding a way of diagnosing such cancers earlier or treating them more effectively.

The research by scientists at the School of Dental Science at Trinity College Dublin, focused on a pre-cancerous growth called oral leuoplakia.

The scientists wanted to probe whether the presence of certain bacteria could indicate whether a growth was likely to turn cancerous.

The team found that certain bacteria were more common found on the white patches of the leukoplakia growth.

Among the types of bacteria were Fusobacteria and Campylobacter, bugs which are known to be highly present in colon cancer.

The more advanced the oral cancer, the higher the levels of the bacteria, the scientists found.

The scientists are to continue their studies to try to figure out whether the type of bacteria present can indicate if white patches become cancerous.

They will also explore if local antibiotic therapy could help in halting the malignancy.

Oral cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the  world.

Their research findings were recently published in the journal, Frontiers in Microbiology.