The systematic review from Erasmus MC University looked at 95 observational studies comprising more than 9000 patients. Interestingly, 39% of eczema patients carried S. aureus on healthy skin, compared with 70% that carried it on lesional skin where the dermatitis is present. This is an almost 20-fold increase compared to healthy controls.
In addition, up to 80% of eczema patients were found to have a strain of S. aureus that produced a toxin. These toxins have been known to stimulate the inflammatory response, contributing to the skin barrier defects in eczema, and may therefore be a primary trigger of the condition.
Currently, eczema is mainly treated with corticosteroids and in the case of infection, with antibiotics. However, these drugs can result in side effects, drug-resistance and damage to the skin’s normal beneficial bacteria, making them unsuitable for long-term use.
Professor of pediatric dermatology at the Erasmus MC University Suzanne Pasmans, and senior author of the paper said, “This review demonstrates the importance of colonization with S. aureus, as a factor in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. To decipher the exact role of S. aureus, studies using targeted antistaphylococcal therapy for the skin need to be done.”
Micreos, a Dutch biotech firm which helped fund the review, is developing Staphefekt, a bacteria-killing enzyme, or endolysin, specific to S. aureus, which is as effective in killing MRSA as other strains of S. aureus. Staphefekt is billed the first endolysin registered for use on the skin’s microbiome, and is currently used as the active compound in Gladskin (a range of topical creams and gels for inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema). Bacterial resistance to Staphefekt has not been observed, according to the company.