Nov. 1, 2007 -- Psychological stress may make it harder for skin to keep infections at bay, a new study shows.
The study is based on lab tests in mice.
If confirmed in people, the findings may inspire the creation of new drugs to help skin defend itself against microbes.
In the study, some mice were exposed to constant light and noise for three days to induce psychological stress. For comparison, other mice weren't exposed to those stressors.
The mice then got skin injections of a strain of streptococcus bacteria.
Over the next week, the stressed-out mice developed more severe streptococcus skin infections and had higher levels of stress hormones than the mice that weren't subjected to stress.
Psychological stress was also linked to weaker bacteria-fighting ability in the skin of the mice.
The study suggests one way that psychological stress affects skin, note the researchers.
They included Karin Aberg and professor Peter Elias, MD, of the University of California at San Francisco and San Francisco's Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The study may lead to new drugs that promote skin's antimicrobial defenses, says the University of Tennessee's Andrzej Slominski, MD, PhD, in an editorial.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of ways to manage stress that don't require the creation of new drugs. Exercise, meditation, setting priorities, and counseling may all help with stress management.
The study and editorial appear in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.