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Let 'Em See You Sweat

Our skin provides a major line of defense against various environmental threats, including germs. Human skin produces antimicrobial agents for defense, which can limit germ growth after injury as a wound heals and reduce the inflammatory response to skin disorders. Does our sweat have anything to do with the infection-fighting properties of our skin?

A recent study in the journal Nature Immunology focused on the germ-fighting ability of the human skin. Researchers analyzed a new germ-fighting agent found in the human skin - and discovered that it was based in our sweat.The gene identified, deemed Dermcidin, was found to be excreted solely by the sweat glands, whereby it was transported by the sweat to the skin's surface. The gene could not be found in of the other major bodily organs tested.

The antibiotic ability of Dermcidin was maintained over wide pH (acidity) levels and salinity ranges that resembled the conditions found in human sweat. Dermcidin was "highly effective" against E. coli, fungi, and other bacteria that can be found in fecal matter and infected water supplies. These germs can infect your wounds and contaminate the food you eat.

You may not enjoy the sticky, wet feeling of sweat on your skin, but the next time you break a sweat while exercising, perhaps you'll appreciate this bodily response a bit more. Your sweat may be eliminating the harmful, invading microorganisms you come into contact with before they have a chance to get into your body.

Reference:

Schittek B, Hipfel R, Sauer B, et al. Dermcidin: A novel human antibiotic peptide secreted by sweat glands. Nature Immunology 2001:2(12), pp. 1133-1137.

For additional information on sports and fitness, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/tyh/sports.html

   

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