Beneficial Skin Bacteria Protects Against Skin Cancer

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Scientists discover potential cancer-protecting role of skin bacteria, according to a new study published on March 1, 2018.

A team of researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found a new role of a skin bacteria with potential properties that could help fight against cancer. “We have identified a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis , common on healthy human skin, that exerts a selective ability to inhibit the growth of some cancers. This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cells.” said Richard Gallo, co-author of the study.

The team discovered that S. epidermidis strain produces chemical compound 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). Mice with this strain on their skin that did not produce 6-HAP, suffered from several skin tumors, on being exposed to ultraviolet rays.

6-HAP molecule impairs the creation of DNA, known as DNA synthesis, and prevents the spread of transformed tumor cells. Mice that received intravenous injections of 6-HAP every 48 hours, over a two-week period, were found to be safe as they did not undergo toxic effects. However, the mice transplanted with melanoma cells, had suppressed tumors by over 50 percent as compared to the control group of mice.

“There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome is an important element of human health. In fact, we previously reported that some bacteria on our skin produce antimicrobial peptides that defend against pathogenic bacteria such as, Staph aureus,” said Gallo.Over 95 percent of cancers are non-melanoma skin cancer, caused by overexposure to the UV rays. This discovery has the potential to treat this skin disease, in turn, saving the lives of many.

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