A new clinical trial is investigating whether beneficial bacteria can help treat eczema by restoring the natural microbial balance of healthy skin.

"There are over 1,000 species of bacteria that all live in balance on healthy skin, some that even produce natural antibiotics. However, we know that eczema patients lack the beneficial bacteria needed to kill Staph aureus, harmful bacteria that can worsen eczema," says Donald Leung, MD, head of the Division of Pediatric Allergy & Immunology at National Jewish Health in Denver, in a news release.

To fight harmful bacteria, researchers isolate beneficial bacteria from our skin and grow it in a lab. It is then applied to eczema patients' skin as a lotion twice a day for a week. Bacterial DNA from patients' skin is then analyzed in a lab to determine if the cream effectively reduced the amount of bad bacteria present.

"Ideally, we want to eliminate all staph aureus from the skin of eczema patients," says Dr. Leung. "What the cream does is help the skin gain back its natural balance and create that barrier needed to keep it healthy."

Researchers hope that using the bacteria-infused cream will offer a long-term solution. Powerful antibiotics are commonly prescribed for eczema, but they kill good bacteria on patients' skin along with the bad. Creams containing corticosteroids are also often prescribed to eczema patients, but they come with harsh side effects, and patients usually can't tolerate them for long periods of time.

The goal of the trial is to discover the best combination of bacteria to clear eczema from the skin and then make it available to patients as a prescription cream. The next steps involve testing those different combinations, ensuring they're safe and conducting a longer trial to see if the benefits of bacterial cream can truly provide a permanent solution for eczema patients.