Why a little bit of dirt never harmed anyone
‘Friendly' bacteria living on the skin can be beneficial to our health, according to new research using mice and human cells.
The skin's microflora - the bacteria that live on the skin - includes a common species, called Staphylococcus. Research has revealed that Staphylococci bacteria found on the skin's outer surface work to prevent inflammation, whilst causing an inflammatory response when they get inside a wound.
The team used mice and human cells to investigate the mechanism behind this protective effect. They found that on the surface of the skin, the Staphylococci bacteria produce a molecule called lipoteichoic acid (LTA) which interacts with outer skin cells. The LTA cells appeared to dampen the skin's inflammation response, which can be useful in some instances, as prolonged inflammation can lead to skin diseases.
The research not only provides a new example of how germs can actually be good for us, but suggests that antibacterial hand gels could exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema. It could also lead to new approaches for treating inflammatory skin conditions.