Sweet Sweat

Health: Perspiration, however odiferous and uncomfortable, is good.

Perspiration, however odiferous and uncomfortable, is good. Scientists at Germany's Tuebingen University have discovered an antimicrobial peptide -- a protein that protects the body against attacks from germs -- in human sweat. The new one, Dermcidin, is, according to co-discoverer Birgit Schittek,"the first one known to be produced continuously in the skin." Other types are produced only after injury or infection.

Dermcidin is formed in the sweat glands and carried with perspiration to the skin's surface. There it acts as a first line of defense against invading microorganisms. Schittek and colleagues are investigating how Dermcidin functions and intend to test what kinds of germs the peptide can protect against. They are particularly interested to see if it can fight antibiotic-resistant germs. Such research could lead to new drugs.