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Probiotic Treatment For Eczema Shows Promise In NIH Clinical Trial

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An NIH-funded study for the treatment of eczema showed promising results of symptom relief using a probiotic spray applied on the skin.

By harnessing the good bacteria Roseomonas mucosa on the skin, scientists believe it will help the immune system fight off Staphylococcus aureus, a type microbiome that contributes to eczema flare-ups.

"By applying bacteria from a healthy source to the skin of people with atopic dermatitis, we aim to alter the skin microbiome in a way that will relieve symptoms and free people from the burden of constant treatment," said NIAID's Dr. Ian Myles, the study's principal investigator.

The study was published May 3 in JCI Insight.

Improved Eczema Symptoms

The clinical trial at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases involved 15 pediatric and adult participants.

Ten adult volunteers with atopic dermatitis or eczema applied the experimental treatment twice a week for six weeks. The spray contained a sugar water solution with increasing doses of live R. mucosa, which was applied to the participants' inner elbows and another area of their choice.

In the pediatric category, five children aged 9 to 14 years with atopic dermatitis were given the same treatment applied to all affected areas of the skin twice weekly for 12 weeks. The researchers then upped the dose to every other day for another four weeks.

The participants were advised to continue normal eczema treatments such as topical steroids and other medications.

Overall, the researchers reported no adverse reactions or side effects, and most participants experienced improvement of their eczema symptoms. The researchers also noted a decreased number of S. aureus in the children's skin associated with the experimental treatment.

The results of the human clinical trial are parallel to the preclinical study done using mouse and cell culture models of atopic dermatitis.

"This study has exciting potential for one day having a treatment for the millions of sufferers of eczema," said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "What is most exciting is that the 'cure' may be through the skin microbiome itself."

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a noncontagious chronic inflammatory skin condition that results in the dryness and itchiness of the skin. People with eczema develop blisters that can produce fluids when scratched. Symptoms can range from mild, moderate, to severe.

NIAID reported that eczema affects about 30 percent of the U.S. population, making it one of the agency's priority programs. People with eczema are prone to bacterial, fungal, and viral skin infections.

While there is still no cure for eczema, doctors recommend management strategies for symptom relief such as over-the-counter medications, bathing, moisturizing, and application of prescription topicals such as steroids and skin barrier creams.

For moderate to severe cases, doctors may also prescribe systemic medications that target the immune system to reduce itching and redness.

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