NOV 11, 2016 5:25 PM PST

Sunscreen, from bacteria?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Everyone talks about gut bacteria and how great they are. But what about our skin bacteria? They’re great too!
 
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found that Propionibacterium acnes, the most abundant bacterium on our skin, makes an important antioxidant protein.
 
Don’t let the “acne” part scare you away. It’s not clear that these bacteria cause all cases of acne. According to study author Rolf Lood, “the name originates from the fact that the bacterium was first discovered on a patient with severe acne. But whether it causes acne is uncertain – it may have been present merely because it is so common."
P. acnes lives on your skin!
P. acnes is a Gram-positive rod that hangs out on your skin. Well, not everyone’s skin - people aren’t typically colonized until they reach puberty, then they live with us for the rest of our lives. They also aren’t typically pathogenic, but, as for most bacteria, if they make it into your bloodstream they can make you sick. If you’re really unlucky, P. acnes can cause brain infections and endocarditis, but this is very rare.
 
On a lighter note, these guys are also used to make cheese. (And who doesn’t love cheese?) Those holes in Swiss cheese? They’re made when the bacteria produce bubbles of carbon dioxide. That Swiss cheese flavor? That comes from propionate made by the bacteria.
 
So, about that antioxidant protein. Lood and his team found that P. acnes produces a protein called RoxP. What’s interesting about RoxP is that it’s secreted by the bacteria. This suggests that it may modify the environment surrounding the bacteria, making it more hospitable. "This protein is important for the bacterium's very survival on our skin. The bacterium improves its living environment by secreting RoxP, but in doing so it also benefits us,” says Lood.
 
The researchers tested RoxP’s antioxidant effects by mixing it with free radicals ((2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid)-radicals, if you must know). RoxP reduced the free radicals just as well as vitamin E, a well known antioxidant.
 
Curiously, certain skin diseases like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are thought to be mediated by oxidative stress, and people with psoriasis have less P. acnes on their skin. So, it’s possible that RoxP not only protects the bacteria from oxidative stress, but it may help us humans as well. Lood’s group is also interested in adding RoxP to sunscreen, counteracting the free radicals generated by UV radiation. According to Lood, “If the study results are positive, they could lead to the inclusion of RoxP in sunscreens and its use in the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.”
 
 
 
Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, Phys.org, MicrobeWiki
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAR 25, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 25, 2020
The Patterns Formed by Biofilms
Bacterial cells grow in colonies called biofilms, which take on new characteristics, and can form intricate patterns.
APR 19, 2020
Microbiology
APR 19, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Aerosols May Travel up to 13 Feet
SARS-CoV-2 has now caused tens of thousands of deaths worldwide, and hundreds of thousands of infections.
MAY 07, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 07, 2020
An 8 Minute DNA Test For Salmonella
Australian researchers have created a sensitive, super-fast test for five different serotypes of Salmonella which could ...
MAY 14, 2020
Microbiology
MAY 14, 2020
Cats Can Get Infected by SARS-CoV-2 and Transmit It to Other Cats
New research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated that domestic cats can easily be infected wit ...
MAY 24, 2020
Microbiology
MAY 24, 2020
Cavity-Causing Microbes Are Protected by Rings of Sugars and Germs
Bacteria can form tough communities called biofilms, which are difficult to remove and can resist the effects of antimic ...
JUN 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JUN 02, 2020
How Can Far-Ultraviolet Light Help Us in a Pandemic?
Ultraviolet (UV) (10-400 nm) light is everywhere. It constitutes 10 percent of the total electromagnetic radiation in th ...
Loading Comments...