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Human skin bacteria have cancer-fighting powers

The microbes make a compound that disrupts DNA formation in tumor cells

By
3:49pm, February 28, 2018
Staphylococcus epidermidis petri dish

SKIN WIN Staphylococcus epidermidis, a species of bacteria that lives on human skin, grows here in a dish. Strains of this bacteria make a cancer-fighting compound that stops DNA synthesis.

Certain skin-dwelling microbes may be anticancer superheroes, reining in uncontrolled cell growth. This surprise discovery could one day lead to drugs that treat or maybe even prevent skin cancer.

The bacteria’s secret weapon is a chemical compound that stops DNA formation in its tracks. Mice slathered with one strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis that makes the compound developed fewer tumors after exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation compared with those treated with a strain lacking the compound, researchers report online February 28 in Science Advances.

The findings highlight “the potential of the microbiome to influence human disease,” says Lindsay Kalan, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Staphylococcal species are the most numerous of the many bacteria that normally live on human skin. Richard Gallo and his colleagues were

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