Germs love two skin hot spots on your body.

Germs love two skin hot spots on your body.

Unveiling the Hidden Hot Spots: How Cleaning Habits Shape Skin Microbes

Grandma’s Wisdom

Do you remember your grandma’s insistence on cleaning those hard-to-reach spots? It turns out she was onto something. A recent study conducted by students at George Washington (GW) University not only confirms “the grandma hypothesis,” but also sheds light on the impact of cleaning habits on the collection of microbes that inhabit our skin.

The Microbiome: A World of Microbes on Our Skin

The surface of our skin is teeming with life, hosting a diverse community of microorganisms known as the microbiome. This collection of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms plays a crucial role in human health. Interestingly, the composition of the skin’s microbiome varies across different areas of the body, adapting to the varying levels of moisture and oiliness.

Investigating the Grandma Hypothesis

Inspired by their own grandmothers’ wisdom, the students embarked on a genomics course at GW University to test the hypothesis that certain areas of the body act as “hot spots” for unhealthy microbes. Keith Crandall, the director of the Computational Biology Institute at GW, fondly remembered his grandmother’s instructions to “scrub behind the ears, between the toes, and in the belly button.”

Together with Marcos Pérez-Losada, an associate professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics, Crandall designed the genomics course. Over 129 graduate and undergraduate students participated in the study, learning how to collect and analyze their own skin samples.

Revealing the Hot Spots: Behind the Ears, Between the Toes, and In the Navel

To determine the microbial diversity in different areas of the body, the students swabbed two types of hot spots – moist areas, such as behind the ears and between the toes, and an oily area, namely the navel. As control areas, they also collected samples from the forearms and calves, which are typically washed more frequently.

The DNA in the skin samples was extracted and sequenced, providing valuable insights into the types of bacteria living in each location. Astonishingly, the samples from hot spots showed lower microbial diversity compared to the control areas that received more frequent cleaning.

The Relationship Between Cleaning Habits and Skin Health

The findings of the study suggest that our cleaning habits can significantly influence the microbial communities residing on our skin. Crandall highlights that certain microbes can dominate the microbiome, leading to various skin conditions like eczema or acne. Therefore, maintaining a diverse and healthy collection of skin microbes is essential for overall skin health.

By demonstrating the link between cleaning habits and skin microbes, this study serves as a reference point for future research in understanding how the skin’s microbiome affects our health and the development of potential treatments.

Embracing Grandma’s Wisdom

So, next time you find yourself skimping on washing behind your ears or neglecting the spaces between your toes, remember that you’re not just leaving behind a little dirt. You could be fostering an environment where harmful microbes thrive and potentially cause skin problems.

Grandma’s timeless advice holds true even in the world of science and genomics. So, let’s honor her wisdom and give those hot spots the attention they deserve. Your skin will thank you!

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Sources: – George Washington University News Release – Frontiers in Microbiology Journal