Bacteria-enriched lotion battles skin infections

HUMAN skin is home to a multitude of microbes, including some that are helpful and some that could poten-tially be harmful. Now, a small pilot study shows that it might be possi-ble to harness the good bacteria, put them into a lotion and then spread that lotion onto the skin to fight off the bad bacteria.
In the study, researchers took bac-terial samples from patients’ skin, picked out certain species and cul-tured them in a lab, and then put these bacteria into a lotion. They found that, for five patients with a skin condition, the bacteria-rich lo-tion protected them against infec-tions by destroying harmful germs on their skin.
The findings show that “bacteria have a very important role to play in our immune defense,” Dr. Rich-ard Gallo, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the study authors, told Live Sci-ence. The study was published Feb. 22 in the journal Science Transla-tional Medicine.
In the study, the researchers looked at patients with eczema, a condition which causes itchy, red, inflamed skin. In some people, the condition is chronic, which means that it recurs again and again.
The researchers found that the pa-tients who had persistent ec-zematended to be deficient in the friendly bacteria that kill a type of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. In con-trast, people without eczema have an abundance of the helpful bacteria, according to the study.
The researchers analyzed the friendly strains of bacteria, which are also forms of staph, but types that do not cause harm. They found that these bacteria produce two natural antibiotic agents, known as “antimicrobial peptides,” according to the study. The human body also makes these substances, but the new study suggests that the bacte-ria on the skin do a better job of producing them, the researchers said.
In experiments using pig skin and mice, the researchers found that the “good” bacteria strongly in-hibited the growth of several harm-ful staph strains, includ-ing methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a pathogen that is resistant to multiple types of antibiotics.
What’s more, the animal experi-ments showed that even as patho-gens were killed off, other colonies of bacteria continued to thrive. Conversely, traditional antibiotics tend to destroy both helpful and harmful germs all at once, poten-tially weakening people’s immune response.