Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What benefits do bacteria on your skin provide?

  1. Jan 18, 2014 #1

    Q_Goest

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Wikipedia suggests a typical human has ~ one trillion bacteria on their skin. That’s orders of magnitude more than a cell phone and many many orders of magnitude more than a toilet seat.

    They typically don't cause disease and may offer benefits. It kind of bothers me that there’s this common belief that microbes are bad and the more sterile our skin is, the healthier we will be. There seems to be a push to reduce bacteria of all kinds on our skin.

    Here’s one example I know of regarding beneficial bacteria and acne. This is from Science:

    Maybe if you have acne, you should rub faces with someone with healthy skin. Preferably someone of the opposite sex.

    Anyway, I bet there are a lot of benefits to having the right bacteria on your body. Wikipedia states that most bacteria are in the epidermis or hair follicles so perhaps they are difficult to wash off. Hopefully the good bacteria don’t get destroyed by that anti-bacterial stuff in those dispensers, but I don’t know.

    Not too sure where I’m going with this but I’d be interested in comments, especially around the benefits these bacteria have on our skin and our health in general. What bacteria are they and what benefits can they provide?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2014 #2

    Q_Goest

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    My nephew send me this regarding dirty dogs. I guess these examples are all part of the larger hygiene hypothesis. I’m sure there must be numerous examples of studies out there like this.
     
  4. Jan 19, 2014 #3

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    Skin bacteria are OK as long as they stay on your skin. In some people, if skin bacteria get inside the body thru a cut in the skin, they can develop some nasty diseases, like necrotising fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necrotizing_fasciitis

    The bacteria responsible for this disease are quite benign as long as they remain on, not in, the skin.
     
  5. Jan 19, 2014 #4
  6. Jan 19, 2014 #5

    Q_Goest

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Hi SteamKing,
    There are problems of course with cuts to the skin and harmful bacteria getting inside. We don't need to invoke flesh eating bacteria to see the problem with infections, only that the body has a reaction to bacteria that enter our bodies that way. Sterilizing our environment and our skin might help to get rid of these bacteria, but wouldn't it be better to steralize the area of the wound instead? I think the point is that we need various types of bacteria both on our skin and in our gut to remain healthy.
     
  7. Jan 19, 2014 #6

    Q_Goest

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I had to laugh a bit at that first one, but it brings up a point about couples or any group of people in close physical contact. I would suspect that there's a need to 'swap' these good bacteria between people and I wonder if the most likely way that happens is through close, physical contact. I've heard something about gut bacteria being transmitted to babies on birth - the reason god put the playground and the septic tank so close together.

    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gut_flora#Acquisition_of_gut_flora_in_human_infants
     
  8. Jan 19, 2014 #7

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    No one disputes this. However, sterilization is not always 100% effective. I'm just pointing out that even beneficial bacteria can be harmful when, for whatever reason, they wind up out of place in the body.
     
  9. Jan 21, 2014 #8
    Left unsaid is how this happens during vaginal birth. LOL

    Women almost always defecate during labor as their ability to control their anal sphincter is severely compromised and completely overwhelmed by their concentrated effort to push the baby out.

    As a result no matter how hard attendants try to keep the environment neat and tidy by the time the baby is born he or she will get a sufficient dose to ensure proper colonic colonization.

    Considering most pediatricians know this, I'm sure only cursory efforts are made to tidy things up during a labor to ensure a baby gets properly dosed.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted



Similar Discussions: What benefits do bacteria on your skin provide?
Loading...