Despite the fact that we spend our lives covered in a thin veneer of bacteria, little is known about the microbes that dwell in and on our skin. A new study suggests that the interplay between these bacteria and our cells could influence the healing of wounds. Faculty researcher Dr Matthew Hardman said:
“These wounds can literally persist for years, and we simply have no good treatments to help them heal. There’s a definite need for better ways to predict how a wound is going to heal and develop new treatments. This study gives us a much better understanding of the types of bacterial species that are found in skin wounds, how our cells might respond to the bacteria, and how that interaction can affect healing. It’s our hope that these insights could help lead to better treatments to promote wound healing.”
Chronic wounds are a significant health problem, with an estimated 1 in 20 elderly people living with cuts or lesions that never seem to heal. They often result from diabetes, poor circulation, or being confined to a bed or wheelchair.
Hardman and his colleagues compared the skin bacteria from people with chronic wounds to those with wounds that healed. The results showed markedly differing bacterial communities, suggesting there may be a bacterial ‘signature’ to wounds that refuse to heal. Dr Hardman said:
“Our data clearly supports the idea that one could swab a wound, profile the bacteria that are there, and then be able to tell whether the wound is likely to heal quickly or persist. This could impact treatment decisions.”