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Human sweat packs a germ-killing punch

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9:39am, November 7, 2001

People working up a lather at the gym may be doing more than shedding a few pounds. They could be protecting their skin from infection.

In an upcoming Nature Immunology, German researchers report that human sweat contains a novel microbe-killing molecule, which they've dubbed dermicidin. Further study of this small protein, or peptide, may lead to new ways of defeating disease-causing germs, the scientists suggest. The peptide may even explain how sweat glands originally arose in animals, adds another biologist.

The discovery of dermicidin was serendipitous. While studying skin cancer, Claus Garbe of the University of Tübingen in Germany and his colleagues discovered a human gene that's active in sweat glands but not in any other tissue they tested.

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