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Microbial Moisturizer

To prevent disease, researchers are adding beneficial microbes into lotion, the Associated Press reports.

In a preliminary study appearing in Science Translational Medicine, the University of California, San Diego's Richard Gallo and his colleagues found that introducing bacteria that secrete antimicrobial peptides onto the skin of people with atopic dermatitis could decrease their colonization by pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus, the AP says. S. aureus often aggravates eczema symptoms in atopic dermatitis patients.

"It's boosting the body's overall immune defenses," Gallo tells the AP.

In particular, he and his colleagues found that coagulase negative Staphylococcus (CoNS) strains — which have antimicrobial activity — were common on the skin of healthy people, but rare on the skin of atopic dermatitis patients. They further report that CoNS strains like S. epidermidis and S. hominis produce antimicrobial peptides that selectively killed S. aureus.

This suggested to the researchers that dysbiosis of the skin microbiome can lead to disease. Adding the missing CoNS strains back in might help address the issue. They gave volunteers lotion with CoNS strains to use on one arm and regular moisturizer for the other, as a control.

"We're encouraged that we see the Staph aureus, which we know makes the disease worse, go away," Gallo says.

His team is conducting a clinical trial to further examine commensal skin transplants.