Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To Shave or not to Shave: The Hunt for New Antibiotics

            Quite recently great debate has swept the web based on one furry topic: beards. Concern arose when media sources like the New York Post reported that beards are full of fecal bacteria, according to a team of microbiologists led by John Golobic of Quest Diagnostics. However, in response to these findings a team of microbiologists at University College London discovered something much more appealing about what’s hiding in a man’s beard…

            Adam Roberts, the senior lecturer in microbial diseases at the University College London, and his team set out to test the theory proposed by Golobic, but found no concrete support. After further investigation, Roberts’s team discovered that some bacteria found in beards actually contain antibiotic properties. Through agar plate testing with an indicator strain Roberts’ team found that from a sample of twenty beards around twenty-five percent of one hundred different isolates contained these properties. Due to the adaptive nature of several diseases, like pneumonia, existing antibiotics are proving less and less effective. In addition to beards, Roberts has around fifty different bacteria samples from trampolines, refrigerators and even cats that prove effective against multiple indicator strains. These bacteria could be key in discovering new antibodies to combat drug-resistant strains of deadly diseases currently developing resistance.

            Whether it be fecal bacteria or super bacteria, or both living in a man’s beard the thought leads one to wonder what other microscopic organisms living on us could lead to major advances in disease treatment. Perhaps it’s a simple mutualistic relationship where the bacteria have a warm, cozy home and kill off any invaders trying to take over their patch of hair. Whatever the case may be, make sure to wash your hands frequently and appreciate a nice beard every once in a while, it might save your life one day.


Posted By Allen Currier (Group 1)


  1. This is pretty cool. We were talking in one of my bio classes about how some organisms have the ability to fight certain toxins. This is because they produce a certain bacteria that helps the body defend against the toxin. It turns out they don't produce it, they get it from their diets. I wonder if this is the same type of thing.

    Nick Michienzi

    1. Nick it would be interesting if there is some component of our diet that allows these bacteria to thrive, but perhaps they require a specific environment to live and beards are the perfect place.

      Allen Currier

  2. I think its interesting that a beard can serve a purpose like this and be a factor for better survival. This concept reminds me of a similar hair related benefit I learned about in an evolution class. We learned that body hair may be thicker on a human living in a hotter area due to its ability to prevent mosquitoes from reaching the skin. It's proof that hair is indeed an adaptation for helping humans survive, and this beard example demonstrates that a beard (especially nowadays) can be more than just a fashion statement.

    Erina Taradai

    1. In terms of evolution it makes you wonder what other adaptations we've acquired that we don't realize have multiple functions, even on the microscopic level like in this situation.

      Allen Curreir

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