Embrace the beard: Bacteria found in facial hair ‘could help develop new...

Embrace the beard: Bacteria found in facial hair ‘could help develop new antibiotics’


There’s no denying that beards are trending: nearly half of the world’s male population is adept to facial hair. Apart from being the mainstream thing to do, guys now have a new – and scientifically proven – reason to stay away from the razor: beards may actually fight infections! Not only that, they also may contain bacteria which could potentially be used to develop new antibiotics.

A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection tested swabs from the faces of 408 hospital staff with and without facial hair. The result? Clean-shaven men were actually three times more likely to harbor infection-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics when compared to bearded men. They also were 10% more likely to have colonies of Staphylococcus aureus on their faces, another bacteria related to respiratory and skin infections, as well as food poisoning.

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According to the scientists, this might happen because of micro-abrasians caused by razors, which can facilitate bacterial colonization and proliferation. But there’s more – in a separate analysis, Dr Adam Roberts, a microbiologist from University College London, managed to grow more than 100 different types of bacteria from beard samples. He tested one of them against a form of E. coli that causes urinary tract infections, and found the microbes killed the bacterium efficiently.

“When you get a competitive environment like a beard where there are many different bacteria, they fight for food resources and space, so they produce things like antibiotics,” he said.

These findings are extremely important since the antibiotics we have today are becoming increasingly ineffective due to resistance being developed by bacteria. Infections caused by these microbes, that cannot be killed by the antibiotics we have available today, currently kills at least 700,000 people a year. By 2050, that number could increase to 10 million people if a new, more resistant antibiotic is not developed. Scientists eager to tackle this problem have recently discovered a super antibiotic that resists resistance, but that isn’t yet available to the masses. So for now, better think twice before using the razor.