Spray-on bacteria is one company’s surprising idea for curing skin conditions

spray bottle

In medicine, the microbiome is most often associated with the gut. But there are millions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on our skin and in our glands, too, and scientists suspect that learning more about them could lead to better diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions.

A Cambridge biotech startup called AOBiome is getting a jump on that. It’s developing a bacterial skin mist that’s intended to do the opposite of what the soaps and shampoos we’ve been putting all over ourselves do. It contains billion of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria called Nitrosomonas eutropha that AOBiome thinks used to live naturally on human skin, feeding on the ammonia in sweat and acting as a natural cleanser, deodorant and immune booster.

New York Times contributor Julia Scott wrote about her experience as an early tester of the product, which AOBiome is marketing as a cosmetic product:


“My skin began to change for the better. It actually became softer and smoother, rather than dry and flaky, as though a sauna’s worth of humidity had penetrated my winter-hardened shell. And my complexion, prone to hormone-related breakouts, was clear.”

The long-term goal, though, is to explore the bacteria as a medical treatment. According to Scott, AOBiome has found in lab tests that the spray diminishes other harmful bacteria including MRSA and propionibacterium acnes, a bacteria associated with acne.

Soon, she reports, the company plans to file an IND with the FDA to test its potential as a treatment for diabetic ulcers and other dermatologic conditions.

“Those with wounds that fail to respond to antibiotics could receive a probiotic cocktail adapted to fight the specific strain of infecting bacteria. Body odor could be altered to repel insects and thereby fight malaria and dengue fever. And eczema and other chronic inflammatory disorders could be ameliorated.”

[Image credit: Flickr user sskennel]

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