A better treatment for eczema could come from an unusual source. Your own body.

10,000 colonies of bacteria found on skin were screened through by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in an effort to find out how many had of them antimicrobial properties and at what rate these are found on healthy and non-healthy skin.

In their results, the team reports isolating and growing good bacteria that produce antimicrobial peptides. They also successfully transplanted the good bacteria to treat patients with the most common type of eczema, known as atopic dermatitis.

First author Teruaki Nakatsuji, PhD, project scientist in the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, explained:

“We discovered antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria commonly found on healthy human skin. These novel antimicrobials have selective activity against pathogenic bacteria, but do not harm other commensal bacteria that have a beneficial effect to us."

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

skinThe team investigated whether bacteria normally found on human skin, including Staphylococcus hominis and Staphylococcus epidermis, defend against Staphylococcus aureus - a pathogenic bacteria that aggravates skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.

When S. aureus becomes antibiotic resistant it is known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. It is a leading cause of death resulting from infection in the United States.

Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said:

“We discovered that healthy people have many bacteria producing previously undiscovered antimicrobial peptides, but when you look at the skin of people with atopic dermatitis, their bacteria are not doing the same thing. They have the wrong type of bacteria. After isolating the good bacteria and growing it, we were able to transplant it back to people who were deficient in it and it had an immediate impact by reducing the amount of S. aureus on the skin."

The finding adds to the growing evidence for the benefits of our microbiome.

Atopic Dermatitis

A phase II clinical trial is just beginning to evaluate whether prolonged application of one of the most potent good bacteria from human skin can provide long-term protection against S. aureus and improve atopic dermatitis.

“It appears that people with this disorder will need to have it reapplied because their body does not naturally promote the growth of these organisms,” Gallo said. “The good thing is this is easy to do because it’s just a cream.”

According to the National Eczema Association, nearly 18 million people in the United States are plagued with atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, which normally appears as a rash on arms, legs and cheeks.

The authors of the study conclude that the microbiome is clearly associated with disease, but cause and effect had not been established. The study demonstrates one of the chemicals that normal skin bacteria make to help humans fight off infection or an imbalance in the skin microflora.

Teruaki Nakatsuji, Tiffany H. Chen, Saisindhu Narala, Kimberly A. Chun, Aimee M. Two, Tong Yun, Faiza Shafiq, Paul F. Kotol, Amina Bouslimani, Alexey V. Melnik, Haythem Latif, Ji-Nu Kim, Alexandre Lockhart, Keli Artis, Gloria David, Patricia Taylor, Joanne Streib, Pieter C. Dorrestein, Alex Grier, Steven R. Gill, Karsten Zengler, Tissa R. Hata, Donald Y. M. Leung, Richard L. Gallo Antimicrobials from human skin commensal bacteria protect against Staphylococcus aureus and are deficient in atopic dermatitis Science Translational Medicine, 2017; 9 (378): eaah4680 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah4680

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