What do the bacteria eat, that live on your skin? Scientists at Radboudumc and Utrecht University have developed a novel computer model to answer this question, revealing that a lot of the food for skin bacteria is derived from beauty and skin care products. The model uses microorganisms’ DNA to determine the metabolites – nutrients and waste products – used and produced by the bacteria in different parts of the human body. Metabolites provide important clues about human health and disease but can be difficult to measure experimentally. The results of their research were published last week in Nature Microbiology.
Metabolites, such as those that make up one’s body odour, are molecules that are used and produced by living cells such as human cells and bacteria. The human body is increasingly seen as a complex ecosystem, home to thousands of microorganisms and their metabolites. The health of this ecosystem hinges on the relationship between the microbes and human cells and tissues, and metabolites are often the key to this relationship. For example, intestinal tumours cause changes to the metabolite composition in the intestine, which in turn allows certain types of gut bacteria to grow, sometimes exacerbating the tumour.