News / Health

    Bacteria From Beards Could Help Develop New Antibiotics

    Bacteria From Beards Could Help Develop New Antibioticsi
    Zlatica Hoke
    February 03, 2016 11:41 AM
    Research conducted in London has determined that some of the bacteria growing in men's beards have antibiotic properties. The discovery is important at a time when the overuse of man-made antibiotics is making pathogenic bacteria strains increasingly resistant to treatment. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Bacteria From Beards Could Help Develop New Antibiotics
    Zlatica Hoke

    Widespread use of antibiotics for conditions that don't require them has spurred mutations in bacteria strains, turning them into so-called superbugs.

    As a result, some of the diseases that once were easily treatable with antibiotics, such as pneumonia and kidney infections, are becoming deadly again. But a recent lab test in Britain showed that men's facial hair is teeming with a variety of bacteria, all fighting for survival. Some of them produce substances with antibiotic properties.

    "So from 20 beards we managed to isolate at least a hundred different isolates from them, and around 25 percent of these showed antibiotic activity against our indicator strain,” said Adam Roberts, senior lecturer in microbial diseases at University College London.

    The research at University College London was spurred by media reports saying that there are more germs in a man's beard than on a toilet seat. These sparked a debate on whether beards are good or bad for men's health.

    "We wanted to either disprove or prove that that was actually correct, and we could find no evidence of that. So we have no real conclusion to say that beards are bad for you. Likewise, we can't really say that they're good for you,” Roberts said.

    Drug-resistant strains

    But the tests showed that certain species of bacteria produce toxins that kill other bacteria, in one case even a particularly drug-resistant strain of E. coli, which can cause deadly diseases.

    The finding is crucial at a time when existing antibiotics are less and less effective, and new ones have not been discovered. Scientists say they are testing bacteria from various sources.

    "So we don't need any more beards. And we've got other samples from all over the country -- from child's trampolines, to fridges, to cats. We've now got a selection of around 50 different bacteria which can kill multiple indicator strains,” he said. “These include E.coli -- a multi-drug-resistant E.coli -- from a urinary tract infection. These include also Candida albicans [yeast infections] and MRSA [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus]."

    But don't expect a new miracle drug anytime soon. Scientists warn that properly testing and purifying a novel antibiotic is a long and expensive process, riddled with failures.

    You May Like

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Steven Tracy from: Nebraska
    February 03, 2016 11:30 AM
    Effective antibacterial agents are in short supply but may be found when the effort is made. Our laboratories discovered that creatinine, a normal metabolic waste molecule shed in urine, is a broadly effective antibacterial, killing both Gram positive and negative bacteria including multidrug resistant strains such as MRSA. Notably, because it completely suppresses bacterial replication, it can be added to growth medium to search for fungi from the environment that produce novel antibiotics. Refer to Smithee et al for more detail: J Microbiol Methods. 2014 Oct;105:155-61.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora