A new study conducted by Erasmus University Medical Center (MC) in Rotterdam, Netherlands, has revealed that about 70% of eczema patients are colonised with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (S. aureus), including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), on their skin lesions.

Patients with more severe eczema disease exhibit a greater risk of being colonised.

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Staphylococcus aureus is a gram-positive coccal bacterium that is often found in the nose, respiratory tract, and on the skin of a person.

MRSA is a bacterium that causes a wide range of difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

Also known as dermatitis, eczema is an inflammation of the skin that is characterised by itchy, erythematous, vesicular, weeping, and crusting patches.

The study showed that eczema patients are also found to have a strain of S. aureus that produces a toxin stimulating the inflammatory response, thereby adding to the skin barrier defects in eczema.

At present, eczema is treated with corticosteroids and in the case of infection, with antibiotics.

If used for long periods, these treatments can cause side effects such as drug-resistance and damage to the skin's normal beneficial bacteria.

Erasmus MC University paediatric dermatology professor Suzanne Pasmans said: “This review demonstrates the importance of colonisation 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."

“To decipher the exact role of S. aureus, studies using targeted antistaphylococcal therapy for the skin need to be done.”

Dutch biotech company Micreos funded the study and is developing a bacteria-killing enzyme or endolysin known as Staphefekt, which can be effective in killing MRSA along with other strains of S. aureus.

Staphefekt is the first endolysin registered for use on the skin's microbiome.

Unlike antibiotics, bacterial resistance to Staphefekt has not yet been observed or expected, and its specificity means beneficial bacteria are preserved, thereby facilitating its long-term daily use.

Image: Scanning electron micrograph of S. aureus. Photo: courtesy of CDC / Janice Haney Carr.