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Eczema patients lack natural antibiotic in skin

Researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center report in the October 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that patients with atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, are susceptible to bacterial infections of their skin because they fail to produce effective amounts of two antimicrobial peptides. The findings demonstrate for the first time the clinical significance of these peptides in humans, and suggest that a medication containing or inducing the peptides may one day be used to fight the infections that plague millions of atopic dermatitis patients. The accompanying editorial in the journal called it a "seminal study."

"This study helps explain why 90 percent of atopic dermatitis patients are colonized by staphylococcus aureus and 30 percent develop active infections," said the study's senior author, Donald Leung, M.D., Ph.D., Head of Pediatric Allergy-Immunology at National Jewish Medical and Research Center, in Denver. "It is important to understand why people with this common skin disease are so susceptible to skin infections, especially in light of recent widespread concerns that they can develop severe infections after receiving a smallpox vaccination. Interestingly, these antimicrobial peptides are also needed to combat viral infections and therefore could account for the susceptibility of atopic dermatitis patients to eczema vaccinatum and herpes simplex infections."

Atopic dermatitis is a common, chronic skin disease characterized by dry, itchy and easily irritated skin. It occurs most commonly in infants and young children, but can persist into adulthood. Severe cases can lead to sleep deprivation, chronic bacterial infections, and depression. Approximately one in nine people in the United States suffer from this disease at some point. Along with other allergic diseases, its prevalence has grown significantly in recent years.

Immunologists recently identified peptides in the skin that help fight incipient in
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Contact: William Allstetter
allstetterw@njc.org
303-398-1002
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
9-Oct-2002


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