Eczema and the microbiome
The relationship between our body and the bacteria that live in harmony with us (the microbiome) is one of the most fascinating developments in medicine. Thousands of bacterial species live on our body - on our skin, in the mucosa and in our digestive tracts. It now seems that mass destruction of those bacteria through obsessive washing and the sterilising of our environment may not be doing us any favours. Research on probiotics was thin on the ground until the turn of the century then evidence began to appear showing the benefits of probiotics to re-establish healthy gut flora after the use of antibiotics. Since that time evidence has been published on the relationship between an unhealthy microbiome and everything from cancer and Crohn's disease to cognitive decline and allergies. A balanced microbiome is one of the most important contributors to staying healthy and new evidence suggests that getting it right should start before birth. A paper published this month analysed the relationship between probiotic use during pregnancy and the prevention of eczema in infants. Results showed that in children whose mothers had taken probiotics during pregnancy or who had received probiotics themselves in the first 6 months of their life, the incidence of eczema was much lower.
The challenges for medicine now are to identify the good guys and the bad guys and the right balance between the thousands of bacteria in the microbiome.
Mansfield et al. Comparative probiotic strain efficacy in the prevention of eczema in infants and children: a systematic review and meta analysis. Mil Med Jun 2014.