Research: Beards have antibiotic properties

Scientists are hunting for new antibiotics & are hopeful beards could prove to be a cut above the rest.

Parade goers dress up in customs and colored beards at the 251st Annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York, USA, 16 March 2013. Picture: EPA/PETER FOLEY

REUTERS - From rock stars... to actors... to royalty, the beard has made a comeback in recent years.

But facial fuzz is full of bacteria.

Microbiologists from University College London recently took swab samples from 20 beards.

They wanted to test the theory that most contain faecal bacteria.

Thankfully, they found no evidence to support this.

But further tests revealed something surprising - beard bacteria has antibiotic properties.

Adam Roberts, senior lecturer in Microbial Diseases at University College London, said "What we do is grid out the individual bacteria on an agar plate which has been pre-inoculated with an indicator strain.

And then we see if that indicator strain can grow right up to the individual colonies from the beards or from anywhere else that we've got these bacteria from.

"And we found, quite surprisingly, that the beard isolates were quite capable of killing the indicator strain that we have; showing that they actually produce antibiotics themselves."

From the beards sampled, about a hundred pure cultures of bacteria were detected.

Around 25 percent of these showed antibiotic activity.

It's research that could prove vital in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

At UCL, they've asked people to send in swab samples from any place where bacteria might be thriving... with some hopeful results.

Roberts added, "From child's trampolines, to fridges, to cats. We've now got a selection of around 50 different bacteria which can kill multiple indicator strains... So we're concentrating our efforts now on finding out exactly what these bacteria are producing, because there's just a small possibility that it might be a novel antibiotic."

Over prescription and inappropriate use of antibiotics means once easily-treatable diseases are becoming deadly again.

Scientists are on the hunt for new antibiotics wherever they could be, and are hopeful that beards could prove to be a cut above the rest.