What’s on Your Skin? Archea, That’s What!

It turns out your skin is crawling with single-celled microorganisms—and they’re not just bacteria. A study by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Medical University of Graz has found that the skin microbiome also contains Archaea, a type of extreme-loving microbe, and that the amount of it varies with age.

The researchers conducted both genetic and chemical analyses of samples collected from human volunteers ranging in age from 1 to 75 years. They found that Archaea (pronounced ar-KEY-uh) were most abundant in subjects younger than 12 and older than 60. Their study has been published in Scientific Reports in an article titled, “Human age and skin physiology shape diversity and abundance of Archaea on skin.”

In addition to the influence of age, the researchers found that sex was not a factor but that people with dry skin have more archaea. “Archaea might be important for the cleanup process under dry skin conditions,” said one of the investigators.

The study linked lower levels of sebum (the oily secretion of sebaceous glands), and thus reduced skin moisture, with an increase of Archaea. Their study focused on Thaumarchaeota, one of the many phyla of Archaea, which is known as an ammonia- oxidizing microorganism. Because ammonia is a major component of sweat, Archaea might play a role in nitrogen turnover and skin health. The team also correlated archaeal abundance with skin dryness, as middle-aged persons have higher sebum levels and thus moister skin than the elderly. So far, most Archaea are known to be beneficial rather than harmful to human health. They might be important for reducing skin pH or keeping it at low levels, and lower pH is associated with lower susceptibility to infections.
SOURCE: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. What’s on your skin? Archaea, that’s what: Study on human skin microbiome finds archaea abundance associated with age. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2017.

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