Fostering friendly skin bacteria could promote chronic wound healing, researchers say

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Caregivers might soon be able to heal seniors' chronic wounds by manipulating the bacteria that live on the skin, according to research out of the University of Manchester Healing Foundation Centre in England.

Scientists and clinicians have paid a great deal of attention recently to how bacteria living in the gut are linked to an array of health conditions. Bacteria that dwell on the surface of the skin might play a similarly important role, according to lead researcher Matthew Hardman, Ph.D.

Hardman and his colleagues have conducted two types of studies. In one, they compared the skin bacteria in healthy people with people who had chronic wounds. The types of bacterial colonies were significantly different, suggesting that swabbing a wound and analyzing the bacteria present could reveal whether it will heal or persist, the researchers said.

A second study analyzed the genetic makeup of mice. Mice with slow healing wounds lacked a single gene and also had more “harmful” skin microbiota than the mice with a copy of the gene, the team determined. They said the discovery suggests that genetic factors determine a person's skin bacteria, which in turn determines a person's wound healing ability.

Similar to the way probiotics in the gut could have health benefits, introducing friendly skin bacteria could offer a new way to treat the persistent wounds that affect 1 in 20 seniors, Hardman said.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology released a summary of the findings Monday.

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