Bacteria found in thermal spring water could help treat eczema when applied directly to the skin, a study has found.
Vitreoscilla filiformis is a type of harmless (nonpathogenic) bacteria found in the water of sulphurous thermal springs, as can be found throughout Europe. Benefits of visiting thermal spas have previously been reported by eczema patients, but changes to the skin following spa retreats are hard to assess as they could also be due to changes in diet and reduced stress. Scientists in France and Germany therefore studied the effects of V. filiformis on atopic eczema, to see whether this might be the cause of reported improvements.
The researchers found that clinical symptoms improved significantly, and this improvement could be noticed as early as two weeks after the start of treatment.
The same was true for itching, which decreased significantly after just two weeks.
Improvement of eczema lesions was also detectable by visual inspection. Levels of other bacteria, which can cause skin infections in eczema patients, were also cut.
Those treated with a similar cream not containing the bacteria saw little or no improvement.
Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "Dermatologists are at the forefront of eczema treatment and, if further studies suggest that this bacterium does indeed provide clinical results, would welcome the potential for new topical treatments to help combat this distressing disease."
"I think this study is potentially very useful. I have had regular skin swabs which test positive constantly for Staphyloccous aureus, and so I think this bacterium could help decrease the Staphyloccocus on my skin and therefore improve my eczema." - Sara, Kent
"My husband has had eczema for years. After he got shingles, the eczema got chronic. He itches all the time, and his skin is covered in bruises. The creams he has been told to use have contained statins and steroids which I understand thin the skin. Nothing works." - Val Lewis, Middlesex