Medical scientists have been using antibacterial cultures to develop disease treatments over the years. While such therapies have been proven effective in curing certain infections in the past, an increasing number of bacterial strains are starting to become more resistant to antibiotics.

This development has brought another degree of challenge for researchers to come up with new methods to treat these microbes.

Microbiologists from the University College London in the United Kingdom explored the potential of bacteria found in human beards as a means to develop newer and better antibiotic treatments. The idea builds on the findings of a study featured in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

In this earlier research, a team of scientists collected samples from 408 male employees of two university hospitals in 2013. The participants consisted of men who has facial hair and those who are clean-shaven.

From the swab samples gathered through the study, the UCL researchers were able to grow more than 100 different kinds of bacteria. These microbes were then exposed to an indicator strain to find out their antibacterial properties.

The team discovered that 25 percent of beard isolates collected from 20 bearded men were able to show antibiotic activity against the indicator strain.

With this discovery, the researchers believe that it could lead to the creation and release of new antibiotic treatments, which is something that has been rarely done in the past 50 years.

Drug-Resistant Superbugs

Scientists believe that the recent rise of drug-resistant microbes is caused in large part by an overuse of prescription antibiotics.

A recent report in the UK estimates that antibiotic and microbial resistance could lead to the death of an additional 10 million people every year if the trend is not stemmed immediately. It could also cost governments as much as $100 trillion by 2050.

The UCL research is part of an international effort to develop better antibacterial therapies to prevent microbial resistance from becoming worse.

Adam Roberts, Ph.D. a microbiologist from UCL, explained that even though it might appear contradictory for them to look for additional antibiotics when the situation started with its overuse, it is important for medical researchers to have new treatments available to them.

He said that this would allow them to find out how long they can use medicines before they can be put aside for a few years. As a result, bacterial strains are less likely to develop resistance to the treatments.

Aside from the beard isolates, Roberts and his team are also studying swab samples provided by members of the public. They now have as many as 50 different bacteria that are capable of killing a number of indicator strains.

Some of the bacteria kept by the UCL researchers include Candida albicans, which have been identified with yeast infections, and E.coli, which is known to cause urinary tract infections.

Photo: Anthony D'Onofrio | Flickr

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