A groundbreaking new study takes the search for the latest cures to some strange places.
A microbiologist was digging around in men’s beard to find poop, but instead found a potential secret to fighting against drug-resistant infections.
It certainly sounds strange, but science can be that way sometimes.
Adam Roberts was researching a fake viral story on the Internet about how if you have a beard you may have more poop on you than a toilet. The study came about as a result of a project by a TV journalist in New Mexico who wanted to see if this was true and swabbed a few beards so a microbiologist could examine them, according to a Washington Post report.
Instead of poop, scientists found “enterics,” which are bacteria often found in the intestine. This isn’t uncommon, and it’s also not the same as poop. So Roberts, who works as a microbiologist at University College London, decided to go further.
His research team has been conducting a program called “Swab and Send,” collecting swab samples from around the world. The swabs can come from a number of sources, including computer keyboards, the inside of a toilet, or a train station floor — all in the hopes of finding the next solution to drug-resistant bacteria.
So when Roberts was asked by the BBC to look into this burgeoning theory, he was happy to accept. Using swabs from 20 beards, he looked through about 100 types of bacteria. He didn’t find evidence of fecal material, but he found that about 25 percent of beards had isolates that were capable of killing off indicator strains — a stunning finding that he wasn’t expecting. Essentially, beards were producing their own antibiotics.
The caveat is that the indicator bacteria used were fairly weak, and thus more tests will be needed. But it’s a fascinating finding that could lead to breakthroughs — and shows that you can never look in a weird enough place to make the next scientific breakthrough.