A Cambridge start-up company is testing a living bacterial skin tonic that may be as effective an antibacterial agent as soap, The New York Times
The tonic — AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist, developed by AOBiome — looks, feels, and tastes like water, but each spray bottle of contains billions of cultivated ammonia-oxidizing "good" bacteria (AOB) most commonly found in dirt and untreated water.
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AOBiome scientists say the bacteria once lived happily on our bodies — before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo — acting as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory, and immune booster. They feed on the ammonia in our sweat and convert it into nitrite and nitric oxide, which kills harmful bacteria.
AOBiome does not market its product as an alternative to cleansers, but notes that some regular users may find themselves less reliant on soaps, moisturizers, and deodorants after as little as a month.
David Whitlock, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+, says he has not showered for the past 12 years and needs only a sponge bath to wash away grime, The Times reports.
Jamie Heywood, the chairman of the company's board of directors, lathers up once or twice a month and shampoos just three times a year.
AOBiome says the tonic activates enough acidified nitrite to diminish the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A regime of concentrated AO+ caused a hundredfold decrease of Propionibacterium acnes, often blamed for acne breakouts. And the company says that diabetic mice with skin wounds heal more quickly after two weeks of treatment with a formulation of AOB.
The company plans to file an Investigational New Drug Application with the Food and Drug Administration to request permission to test more concentrated forms of AOB for the treatment of diabetic ulcers and other dermatologic conditions.
"It's very, very easy to make a quack therapy; to put together a bunch of biological links to convince someone that something's true," Heywood said. "What would hurt us is trying to sell anything ahead of the data."
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