Latest remedy for severe itching and eczema? how skin viruses could defeat Atopic Dermatitis
The skin’s microbiome hides viral elements that might revolutionize atopic dermatitis treatments.
Atopic dermatitis, a persistent skin inflammation, affects as many as 15% of children and 5% of adults. With all the advanced treatments available, the agonizing itch and eczema, predominantly observed on areas like elbows and knees, remain a source of immense discomfort.
A groundbreaking study undertaken at MedUni Wien, spearheaded by Wolfgang Weninger, Chief of Dermatology, reveals a game-changing prospect: bacteriophages. These entities, part of the skin’s viral microbiome, could potentially herald a new era of treatments for atopic dermatitis.
This pivotal research was recently featured in the esteemed Science Advances journal.
Historically, the role of bacteriophages (colloquially known as “phages” or “bacteria hunters”) has been understood chiefly through studies related to the gut. However, in their quest for next-gen solutions for atopic dermatitis, the MedUni Vienna scientists have delved into the previously uncharted relationship between phages and skin bacteria.
For some time, it’s been evident that the onset and course of atopic dermatitis go hand-in-hand with significant shifts in the skin’s microbiome, a vast ecosystem dominated by bacteria.
But the question remained: Do viruses, like phages, play a part in shaping this ecosystem, especially when comparing healthy to diseased skin?
To note, phages, with their varied roles and characteristics, exist primarily to infect bacteria, either eliminating or propelling their proliferation.
A major discovery from this study highlighted the presence of novel phages within the skin microbiome samples of those battling atopic dermatitis. As emphasized by lead authors, Karin Pfisterer and Matthias Wielscher of MedUni Vienna’s Dermatology unit, these newfound phages appear to accelerate the growth of certain bacteria in unique ways.
Interestingly, this altered phage-bacteria dynamic wasn’t present in skin samples from healthy counterparts. This discrepancy might shed light on why there’s an apparent surge in a bacterium named Staphylococcus aureus in the skin microbiome of those with the condition.
These insights offer a clearer picture of skin microbiota in those with atopic dermatitis and open doors to tailor-made therapeutic avenues. Specifically, the cultivation of phages adept at targeting Staphylococcus aureus emerges as a hopeful therapeutic strategy.
On a broader scale, phages, omnipresent wherever bacteria thrive, are a diverse lot – with over 1031 species known. Their hallmark trait is their specificity, often targeting a narrow spectrum of bacteria. This selectivity, while a hurdle for researchers, also paves the way for precision treatments.
Notably, these bacterial viruses don’t discriminate between antibiotic-resistant strains and their counterparts, marking them as potential contenders in the battle against resilient pathogens.
In light of these findings, upcoming research aims to validate the effectiveness of phage-based topical solutions for atopic dermatitis.
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