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Skin Stress

December 17, 2007

Stress weakens your skin’s defenses against infectious diseases.


How stress saps your skin’s defenses. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Stress may weaken your first and best defense against germs: your skin. This according to dermatologist Peter Elias of the University of California at San Francisco. His team found that when mice were subjected to stress, they secreted fewer natural antimicrobial proteins on their skin, and were more vulnerable to skin infections.

PETER ELIAS (Univ. of California, San Francisco):
What we’ve done is taken the ‘black box’ out of stress and infections. People have always thought that stress increased your susceptibility to infections, but there’s never been any actual mechanism provided for this.

Specifically, he says stress boosts chemicals that block the production of skin fats, which are needed to ferry the antimicrobial proteins to the surface. Elias notes that this also applies to the lining of the gut and gastrointestinal bugs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.