A strain of bacteria commonly found on human skin were found to protect against skin cancer

Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis) is a bacteria commonly found on healthy human skin. Scientists have now discovered that a strain of S. epidermidis can stop the growth of some cancers.

In the research published in Science Advances, it was reported that S. epidermidis strains isolated from human skin produce a chemical called 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). 6-HAP stops DNA synthesis, which prevents cancer cells from multiplying.

Mice colonised with a strain of S. epidermidis that did not make 6-HAP developed many skin tumors after being exposed to UV rays (which causes skin cancer). On the other hand, mice colonised with S. epidermidis that do produce 6-HAP had significantly less tumors.

The researchers also tested the effects of 6-HAP in mice transplanted with melanoma cells. They injected a group of these mice with 6-HAP (dose: 20mg/kg every 48 hours for 2 weeks), while another group did not receive 6-HAP. They found that in mice receiving 6-HAP, the tumor size was suppressed by over 60% compared to mice that did not receive 6-HAP. The researchers did not find any toxic side-effects associated with 6-HAP.

Last year, the same team who conducted this study reported that bacteria collected from human skin also showed anti-microbial activity that could protect the skin against pathogens. Here’s a link to the study.

Note that although the S. epidermidis in this study was collected from the skin of human samples, the anti-cancer properties have only been tested in mice at this point. Further study in humans are still yet to be conducted.

Study Reference: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/4/2/eaao4502.full.pdf

About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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