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New Research: Eczema and Skin Microbiome

Aside from removing your IgG food triggers, what else can you do for eczema? Well, have you heard of the skin microbiome?

The persistent need to scratch, whether triggered by a subtle tickle or intense irritation, can be overwhelmingly discomforting. Recent scientific revelations propose that a prevalent type of skin bacteria might serve as the instigator behind this sensation, particularly for individuals grappling with eczema, or atopic dermatitis.

Conducted at Harvard Medical School under the guidance of Professor Isaac Chiu, this research delves into the significance of the microbial landscape on our skin in shaping overall health. This extensive study, incorporating experiments on mice, human samples, and nerve fibers, establishes a vital link between Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, and atopic dermatitis.

Eczema and skin microbiome: Staphylococcus aureus

While Staph is frequently present on itchy skin lesions, the study breaks new ground by demonstrating that Staphylococcus aureus can directly trigger itching. The research findings indicate that mice treated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on their skin not only displayed an increased likelihood of developing dermatitis but also exhibited heightened scratching behavior. This response was elicited even by minor stimuli, mimicking the heightened sensitivity experienced by individuals with eczema.

Further investigations aimed to unravel the mechanisms through which bacteria induce itching. Through experiments involving genetically modified forms of MRSA, researchers pinpointed an enzyme known as V8 protease as the primary culprit. The introduction of this substance into mice induced scratching, and skin swabs from human patients with atopic dermatitis showed elevated levels of this enzyme.

The study revealed that V8 protease directly interacts with nerve cells in the skin, transmitting itch signals to the brain by binding to specific receptors on neurons. The administration of an anti-clotting drug, known to block these receptors elsewhere in the body, significantly alleviated itchiness in mice. This groundbreaking discovery opens up the possibility of developing a topical cream or ointment to relieve itching in the future.

What does this mean for eczema treatment?

While additional research involving humans is crucial, experts emphasis e the importance of this study. Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, underscores the pivotal role of disruptions to the skin microbiome in causing itching and eczema. She envisions that this understanding will pave the way for new treatment options, offering relief from the distress of itch and eczema.

Anticipating Future Developments:

Joan Geoghegan, a professor in microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, sees immense potential in utilising this knowledge to develop targeted therapies. Researchers may explore ways to specifically address the itch-inducing bacterial protease V8 or its target on sensory neurons, aiming to prevent itching and the damage caused by scratching.

This groundbreaking research unveils the intricate relationship between skin bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, and the itching experienced by individuals with eczema. The identification of V8 protease as a key player opens doors to potential therapies that could revolutionise the treatment of itching associated with chronic skin conditions. As scientists delve deeper into these findings, there’s hope for innovative solutions that improve the lives of those affected by eczema-induced itching.


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