Eczema-like inflammation is caused by staph bacteria (staphylococcus aureus) infection. Eczema is a skin condition that leads to red, itchy rashes with no known cause. Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School have now brought the medical community one step closer to better understanding of eczema with hopes to help improve treatments.
The findings suggest that a toxin produced by staph bacteria can cause immune cells in the skin to react with eczema-like rashes.
This molecule called delta toxin causes immune-system cells to release tiny granules that cause inflammation. It’s important to note that this reaction does not occur with any staph bacteria. Only strains of staph that have delta toxin can cause the inflammation.
Although the findings reveal how delta toxin plays a role in eczema, this is not enough to determine whether it is the cause of eczema. However, it does bring researchers one step closer to better understanding the skin condition. The findings were made in mice experiment, so it is still too early to suggest that the results would be the same in humans.
Some eczema patients have noted relief of eczema symptoms from antibiotics. However, antibiotics have drawbacks as a long-term therapy.
Senior author Gabriel Nunez said, “We know that 90 percent of patients with atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, have staph bacteria detectable on their skin. But until now, it has not been suspected that the contribution was primary, because there was not a clear mechanistic link. Now we have evidence that there may indeed be a direct link.”
Delta toxin is found everywhere, as Nunez pointed out, and yet very little is known about it and what it can cause. Nunez added, “The bacteria do not likely produce it to cause disease, but produce it in response to an increase in neighboring bacteria – something called quorum sensing.”
Staph bacteria may produce delta toxins as a means to kill off competing bacteria that live on the skin – including good bacteria. Nunez speculated, “Perhaps, the host – the human – gets involved in the middle of the war. And eczema is the collateral damage of the bacteria producing the delta toxin factor to cause colonization, and aggravating host mast cells.”
Control eczema to prevent skin infections
Controlling eczema can help prevent skin infections. It’s important to follow the tips below in order to reduce your risk of skin infections that can worsen eczema.
- Moisturize: plain, scent-free daily moisturizer works best.
- Steer clear of eczema triggers: common triggers include detergents or household cleaning products. Identifying your own can help reduce eczema outbreaks.
- Wear gloves: especially if you are heading outdoors into the cold or if you must touch items that are known or potential irritants.
- Choose soaps wisely: mild soaps for daily hand and body washing are the best.
- Avoid skin irritation: don’t scratch or rub the area, and keep fingernails short to prevent accidental scratching.
- Visit a dermatologist: they can prescribe topical medication and other treatments to help you better control your eczema.
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