Common human skin bacteria could protect against cancer, say researchers

Common human skin bacteria could protect against cancer, say researchers

Common human skin bacteria could protect against cancer, say researchers

In a new study, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have found that a special strain of the bacteria living on the skin could help protect against cancer and also help in its treatment.

The finding was somewhat serendipitous.

This particular skin microbe fights off its enemies by producing a substance - called 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP for short) - that prevents its target's DNA from replicating, the researchers observed.

"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", he told MedicalNewsToday.

The substance produced had a similar structure as that of a DNA structure called as adenine. "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. This molecule was found to stop the spread of the cancer in mice when tried in the laboratories. One group was injected with 6-HAP every two days over a two week study period and the other group did not receive these injections. However, when melanoma cells were introduced to mice, animals which had received 6-HAP intravenously ended up with tumours that were more than 60% smaller than those that had not received the substance.

Staphylococcus epidermis bacteria is commonly found in humans and 20 percent of the population is likely to have this strain on their skin producing 6-HAP. "Our study found that it is common, but not on everyone", said Gallo. "We have evolved to need these microbes and desperately need to understand all the roles they play in human biology and start to think more about what it is to be a human being", he said.

"[This research] further adds to a growing understanding of how important the human microbiota, and in this case the skin microbiome, is to health". "The next stage of this exciting work, will be to translate it to human clinical trials and show that this bacterially produced chemical can protect the host from skin cancers".

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