When Jake Harvey visits the clinical center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, he is usually dirty, itchy and wheezing—not the happiest state of affairs for a 14-year-old boy. But his doctors require that for 24 hours prior to each visit, he refrain from bathing, or using the inhaler that soothes his asthma, or applying the ointment that softens his eczema. In order to study his illness, they need him to be in as close to his natural state as possible.
Jake's discomfort could lead to better treatments for the millions who have eczema—a disorder marked by dry red rashes in the creases of elbows, behind knees and on the back of necks—as well as an array of other allergic reactions. By understanding eczema in a new way, as the product of a delicate interaction between the immune system and the legion of bacteria that live on the skin, one group of scientists hopes to better understand what triggers it and why the number of diagnosed eczema cases in developed countries has dramatically increased over the past few decades.
These researchers, led by Heidi Kong, a dermatologist at the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute and Julie Segre, a geneticist at the NIH, are just one part of the five-year, $173-million Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an effort to characterize the thousands of species of microbes that live on or in us. So far, Jake has made half a dozen trips to Bethesda, 60 miles each way, to donate a few skin cells to the project.
Jake has been struggling with eczema since he was a few months old. The rash never stops itching, and when he scratches, it bleeds and scabs and gets even itchier. His clothes stick to the sores. He has tried many treatments, including petroleum jelly, topical steroids, antibiotics, and also dairy-free, gluten-free and probiotic diets. None of them has worked very well. When he was younger, he went to school with bandages on the tips of his fingers and slept with socks over his hands. In bed, he still sometimes lies on his back with both legs sticking straight up so they're easier to scratch. "I've never really gotten a full night's sleep," he says.
As many as 30 percent of all children develop eczema, and no one knows what mix of genetic and environmental factors sets it off. The disease runs in families, yet Jake's twin sister, Becca, has perfect skin. For about 60 percent of children with the disease, it goes away by early adolescence. The others frequently deal with outbreaks for life.
Whether the rash disappears or not, nearly one third of children with eczema go on, like Jake, to develop asthma and hay fever. Asthma and hay fever also involve inflammation, but very little is known about what quirk of the immune system links them all together. "We've been to pediatricians, allergists, dermatologists for years," says Jake's mother, Debbie, "and nobody can figure him out."
The average human body is made up of trillions of cells. The average human body also houses about 10 times that number of bacterial cells. Scientists have been curious about our bacterial cohabitants since 1683, when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, using a microscope he had built himself, examined his own dental plaque only to discover "little living animacules, very prettily a-moving." But it has been only within the past few decades that scientists have begun to understand just how many varieties of bacteria live in or on our bodies. And now they increasingly suspect that many diseases are caused not by individual bacteria, but by the delicate interplay between multiple bacterial species and the human host.
Thank you for this seemingly contrarian article. Often in science, we find that the absence of something often is telling that something unseen exists. Whether we watch a star wobble to determine that an invisible planet orbits or, in this case, the belief that there is a probiotic layer on our skin that sustains skin health makes all too much sense.
Unfortunately, there are many Jake’s in the world who have been over medicated without true answers to the causes of their afflictions. Not so ironically, the incidence of these skin disorders seem to be in “advanced communities” like the US and EU. Could there be a connection? Occam’s razor says yes. My Intuition wondered why.
Inspired after reading the work of the Human Microbiome Project, I dedicated a chapter to the use of parabens and Triclosan in everyday skin care, household and prescription products in my book Chemical-Free Skin Health.
Chemical preservatives and antibacterial agents like Methyl Paraben and Triclosan are not discriminating. These bactericides are indiscriminate and kill off gram-positive rods, gram-negative rods as well as the good probiotic bacteria on our skin.
The parabens in most products today are cumulative in their dosing of bactericides designed to keep our products safe for use. Triclosan is the hydrogen bomb of bactericides. The duh connection is that these bactericides do not stop working when they come out of the bottle in the form of lotions, shampoos detergents and even the foods we eat. These are the hidden killers listed as preservatives where Triclosan is marketed for its broad-spectrum antibacterial destructive force.
Not so ironically, this safety factor preserving OTC products and prescriptions is also destroying the probiotics on the skin and most likely permit the really nasty bacteria to grow back first. The Human Microbiome Project is just starting to recognize that the nominal bacterium that exists on our skin is symbiotic to our health and reveals that it is the skins only defense mechanism.
I have seen so many times when moms who consciously get away from the Dirty Dozen Chemicals see reversal in what are obviously misdiagnosed chemically induced skin disorders. These products account for >95% of all the products we find in every home. The threat is real.
For the Jake’s of the world, I am more than concerned that they have had the good protective layer of bacteria on the skin totally obliterated by these bactericides. Maybe this is not Jake’s cause, but I conjecture that it is more than half are related to bactericides. It is beyond the old question whether our kids are too clean. We cannot expect to see reversal od skin disorders when the cause comes in the form of a chemical preservative in everyday products and the prescriptions marketed to restore skin health.
Sadly, I personally know of no way to ‘repropagate’ the normal good bacteria that would protect Jake from skin disorders like eczema. For others that are not so far gone, it is time to get wise about the chemicals that come in contact with our skin.
Time to get wise! Stop, challenge and choose the products that come in contact with your skin.
so in other words, all of our use of antibacterial products is causing the good bacteria to no longer keep the bad bacteria from invading.
also, the picture appears entirely unrelated.
Use of antibacterial agents can affect our bodies' own count of "good bacteria" yes, but that all sorta depends on the individual, and is why further study is needed. It can be good/bad to use antibiotics, chemotherapy, etc....etc.
Heh, in other words - Just because it looks beneficial, it doesn't mean it isn't without it's consequences.
Finally some data is coming out about this. I wrote a book about it last summer and interviewed a Doctor in China working with this some clinically some with pigs. The results were history making. So many diseases that have been incurable are treatable with probiotics. The toughest thing to do is to study what lives where and why. Using people living over 100 seemed to be a good approach.
Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, Hepatitis, gangrene, tuberculosis, just to name a few that have success with. The doctor has products available currently only in Japan. But they include a topical spray, that is amazing for treating all kinds of skin problems such cuts and bacterial/viral protection. And best of all it makes your skin really soft.
There are many different strains of bacteria. Although there are many "good bacteria" in your gut, their levels can be increased to aid your health and digestion. At ProbioticsMD, you'll find information on evidence based probiotic strains. Meaning, not all strains are created equal. Most manufacturers produce generic bacterial strains and call them probiotics. However, only some strains actually have a beneficial interaction with humans leading to reducing the effects of psoriasis, etc as this article addresses. It is important when choosing a probiotic for your health that you do your research and spend your money on a product that has proven results. Few actually do. To learn more about strains of bacteria that have been shown to have a clinical benefit, visit www.ProbioticsMD.com
Criminal behavior, drug-seeking behavior, and perversions share a common biological cause. All three are easily remedied now. An effective, broad-spectrum medical treatment for crime, drug addiction and perversions has been discovered. It is a human pheromone, the healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid 'kissing daddy' pheromone. Unfortunately and presumably due to differing metabolic/neuronal pathways, alcoholism is little effected by pheromone treatment. One dose of 150-250 mg provides permanent relief of even the most obdurate cases.
Nicholson, B. 1984; Does kissing aid human bonding by semiochemical addiction? British Journal of Dermatology 111(5):623-627.
Nicholson, B. 2011: Of Love 2nd Edition Textbook of medical science: exocrinology. www.amazon.com/dp/1456564889
Interesting article, but why, pray tell, was it necessary to use what almost look like Mapplethorpe's homoerotic work to accompany it?