Certain skin-dwelling microbes may be anticancer superheroes, reigning in uncontrolled cell growth. This surprise discovery could one day lead to drugs that treat or maybe even prevent skin cancer.
The bacteria’s secret weapon is a chemical compound that stops DNA formation in its tracks. Mice slathered with one strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis that makes the compound developed fewer tumors after exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation compared with those treated with a strain lacking the compound, researchers report online February 28 in Science Advances.
The findings highlight “the potential of the microbiome to influence human disease,” says Lindsay Kalan, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.