Common human skin bacteria could protect against cancer, say researchers

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(Nicola Davis/ The Guardian) — A type of bacteria commonly found on human skin produces a substance that may help protect against skin cancer, researchers have revealed.

The scientists say the surprise discovery regarding a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis highlights the importance of the community microbes found on and in the body in preventing disease.

While it is not clear whether the absence of this strain could increase the risk of skin cancer in individuals, the team say that it is possible the findings might one day lead to preventive treatments for patients.

“The presence of this strain may provide natural protection, or it might be used therapeutically to inhibit the growth of various forms of cancer,” said Prof Richard Gallo, a co-author of the research from the University of California, San Diego.

The finding was somewhat serendipitous. With previous research showing that chemicals produced by Staphylococcus species commonly found on healthy human skin can kill off certain harmful bacteria, the team looked at numerous strains to explore their antimicrobial powers. (…)

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