In India, at least one in five children suffer from eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. “Since the underlying causes are incompletely known, we undertook a study to identify correlates of the disease,” Dr Souvik Mukherjee from the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani, told The Indian Express.
Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, cracked and rough. Previous studies in western populations have shown that some variants in the Filaggrin gene —responsible for maintaining skin moisturisation – that disrupt its function are abundant among eczema patients, but are found in low levels among others, which causes skin dryness.
“However, these gene variants, we found, are not so abundant among eczema patients from India. Thus, those genetic variants that are associated with eczema in western populations seem to be irrelevant for Indian eczema patients,” said Dr Mukherjee.
Apart from this finding, researchers from a joint team from Unilever R&D and NIBMG- academia-industry study focussed on the composition of skin microbiome (a collection of microbes).
“Staphylococcus is a bacterium that is commonly found on the skin and the upper respiratory tract of every individual. There are over 40 species of Staphylococcus, some of which are harmless but some are harmful and cause disease. Interestingly, we found there is a complete separation of Staphylococcus species between eczema patients and healthy individuals. Patients with eczema have only Staphylococcus aureus species, while healthy controls have only Staphylococcus hominis species,” said Dr Mukherjee.
With Staph aureus now serving as a marker of eczema, this finding also provides a handle to treat eczema by using topical medication to remove it. The scientific study will be published shortly in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
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