MAR 13, 2018 5:34 PM PDT

Good Skin Bacteria can Protect Against Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our bodies are host to millions of microbes, many of which play essential roles in maintaining our health. Scientists are learning more about the bacteria that live inside of our guts and on our skin, revealing the ways they impact our lives. New research by scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicates that specific microorganisms that live on our skin may help protect us from cancer; the work has been reported in Science Advances

“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,” said Richard Gallo, MD, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “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.”

The power of the S. epidermidis strain comes from a chemical compound it makes, 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). The researchers tested the effects of 6-HAP by exposing mice carrying various strains of S. epidemis to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which cause cancer. A group of mice with S. epidermidis that did not make 6-HAP ended up with many skin tumors after UV exposure; mice carrying a 6-HAP-producing S. epidermidis strain did not get those tumors.

6-HAP can act to disrupt the synthesis of DNA. It also prevents the spread of transformed tumor cells and can hinder the development of skin tumors caused by UV rays.

When mice received 6-HAP injections every 48 hours for two weeks, they did not display apparent adverse effects from the treatment. But after melanoma cells were transplanted, the size of their tumors was reduced by over 50 percent compared to controls.

“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.

S. epidermidis seems to also provide a layer of protection against some kinds of cancer, said Gallo. More work is necessary to understand the mechanism behind the effects of 6-HAP. It remains to be seen if it can be used in cancer prevention, and if losing 6-HAP increases the risk of cancer, noted Gallo.

Sun protection is important. / Image credit: Pexels

There are over new one million cases of skin cancer in the United States every year. Over 95 percent of those cases are non-melanoma, which are often caused by UV ray overexposure.


Sources: UCSD, Science Advances

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 05, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Preprint Suggests Sars-CoV-2 Mutation Makes it More Transmissable
MAY 05, 2020
Preprint Suggests Sars-CoV-2 Mutation Makes it More Transmissable
Samples obtained from patients from all over the world have been used to sequence the genomes of the viral strains infec ...
MAY 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
SARS-CoV-2 Can Infect Intestinal Cells
MAY 06, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Can Infect Intestinal Cells
Once thought to cause symptoms that primarily affect the respiratory system, there has been evidence that the virus can ...
MAY 14, 2020
Microbiology
Cats Can Get Infected by SARS-CoV-2 and Transmit It to Other Cats
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 17, 2020
Microbiology
More Research Links ALS to the Microbiome
MAY 17, 2020
More Research Links ALS to the Microbiome
The community of microorganisms that lives in the gastrointestinal tract has a powerful influence on human health.
MAY 23, 2020
Microbiology
The FDA Yanks Some COVID-19 Antibody Tests From the Market
MAY 23, 2020
The FDA Yanks Some COVID-19 Antibody Tests From the Market
The massive demand for diagnostic testing led the FDA to open a short window for many testing products to go to market w ...
JUN 30, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers Find a Flu They Say Has the Potential to Cause a Pandemic
JUN 30, 2020
Researchers Find a Flu They Say Has the Potential to Cause a Pandemic
The world's attention is on a virus right now - the pandemic coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But researchers are still ...
Loading Comments...