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Skin Care microbiome researcher Dr. Kelly Haas, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Biology Department, recently started a research partnership with Akron, Ohio-based GOJO Industries to study the structure, stability, and endurance of their hand microbiome.
The collaboration focuses on understanding fundamental aspects of the hand’s microbiome: what microbes should be growing on a hand in the first place, and where do they come from? The microbiome works in synergy with the skin to supply a barrier against disease. Haas says,”think of a wholesome skin microbiome as a defense for your first line of defense: your skin.” A healthy skin microbiome maintains an acidic pH and supplies colonization resistance against the harmful microbes you encounter but that shouldn’t be taking up residence on your body. However, the hands are a primary requirement for germs and must be frequently cleansed to decrease transmission of possible pathogens between surfaces, other people, and yourself.
Haas believes that there’s an endogenous hand-microbiome community which grows from hard-to-clean markets on your palms and/or from touching your body, face, and hair. “we would like to know how this community responds to hand-hygiene events and what the aftermath looks like. How long does it take to ‘return to normal’?” She asks. Haas’s clinical studies, in collaboration with UMMS Dermatology, will be used with benchwork focused on optimizing the methods to improve the accuracy of skin microbiome studies.
For health care workers, or for anybody living in a pandemic, frequent hand washing also scrubs away the protective acid mantle and endogenous microbiome, leading to dermatitis or atopy characterized by red, dry, irritated, and itchy skin. “Combating disease spread is the top priority,” Haas says,”so there is a trade-off. What we hope to do is to determine how to replace or support the great things that were killed or washed-off.”
Haas says,”The people at GOJO are wonderful to work with in addition to being very focused on the science, and we both hope this partnership will continue for many years and result in new hand hygiene products that minimize that trade-off between public health and private hand health.”
University of Massachusetts Amherst