Our bodies are home to some 100 trillion microorganisms, bacteria, viruses and fungi – known collectively as our microbiome. This microbiome, which is present both inside and outside the body, is inherited from the mother and stays with us for life. Surprisingly, it is unique to every one of us, rather like a second genetic code. The relationship between our bodies and these ‘permanent residents’ is a very collaborative one.
Most of us have heard of the bacteria lurking in our gut, no doubt because it is so closely linked to our diet and because we know that certain foods are renowned for maintaining its delicate balance. But what do we know about the microbiome present on our skin? With a surface area of roughly 2m2 the skin is the largest organ in the body, therefore the ‘good’ bacteria play a huge role in protecting it from harmful external factors, as well as from infection and inflammation. This means that if we disturb the balance of our skin by constantly cleansing it with harsh soaps or other cleansers, we are actually doing more harm than good. In fact, if the microbiome is left to do its job properly, it will preserve the skin by protecting it from external aggression.
The current research into gut microbiome has shown that it may also reveal new therapeutic possibilities for certain skin diseases, responding to unmet needs in conditions like atopic dermatitis. In addition, studies have demonstrated the efficacy of using bacteria found in the gut to fight infection. In the context of antibiotic resistance, this is a breakthrough which will be welcomed with open arms by the whole medical community and it could lead to whole new approaches to health management.
While the skin is probably the least stable microbiome in our bodies, it is the easiest one to influence. This opens up vast opportunities for the future! It may be only the beginning, but research into the skin microbiome could lead to a revolution in the way we approach skin disease therapy and one thing is sure, our attitude to bacteria is definitely about to change…