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Better Microbes

Encouraging certain skin microbes to flourish at the expense of others could help control conditions like acne and eczema, the New York Times reports.

The University of California, San Diego's Richard Gallo, for instance, noticed that Staphylococcus hominis and S. epidermidis, common members of the skin microbiome, could kill off S. aureus, which has been linked to eczema, the Times says. Gallo and his team then grew up S. hominis and S. epidermidis from a set of volunteers, added it to a lotion, and applied that lotion to the volunteers' arms to find a decrease in S. aureus there.

The Times notes that other studies have similarly found that tweaking members of the skin microbiome could influence skin conditions, and that a number of companies are moving into this arena. Such probiotics, it says, could be more selective than antibiotics and other drugs.

It adds, however, that some microbiological worry that the data isn't there yet to support such use as there's more to learn about what a healthy skin microbiome is and how its members interact. They additionally say that typically benign bacteria may not always be so.