There are more and more examples of the ways in which we can benefit from our bacteria. According to researcher Rolf Lood from Lund University in Sweden, this is true for the skin as well. He has shown that the most common bacteria on human skin secrete a protein that protects us from the reactive oxygen species thought to contribute to several skin diseases. The protein has an equally strong effect on dangerous oxygen species as known antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. The skin bacterium is called Propionibacterium acnes. "The name originates from the fact that the bacterium was first discovered on a patient with severe acne. But whether it causes acne is uncertain - it may have been present merely because it is so common", says Dr. Lood at the Department of Clinical Sciences in Lund. He has discovered that the "acne bacterium" secretes a protein called RoxP. This protein protects against what is known as oxidative stress, a condition in which reactive oxygen species damage cells. A common cause of oxidative stress on the skin is UV radiation from the sun. "This protein is important for the bacterium's very survival on our skin. The bacterium improves its living environment by secreting RoxP, but in doing so it also benefits us", explains Dr. Lood. Oxidative stress is considered to be a contributing factor in several skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and skin cancer. Because Propionibacterium acnes is so common, it is present in both healthy individuals and people with skin diseases. According to Dr. Lood, however, people have different amounts of the bacterium on their skin, and it can also produce more or less of the protective protein RoxP. This will now be further investigated in both patients and laboratory animals by Dr. Lood and his team.
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