Now here’s a question that I’ve never heard before, are beards good for you? I don’t know, but I think I know a man that does. There’s a program on BBC TV called Trust Me I’m A Doctor where they carry out experiments aimed at finding new science. Apparently, they’ve discovered a bacteria which appear to be producing a novel form of anti biotic, and, amusingly, they have found it in a beard!
Beards seem to be one of those subjects that you either love them or hate them. As far as fashion goes, they do seem to be making a comeback. The chin-strap, the goatee, the neck beard and the Van Dyke, all seem to have their followers or should that be wearers? However, those that love beards, love them, but those who hate them come up with all sorts of reasons for their dislike of all things pubic. They’re irritating, they harbour nits and other forms of creepy crawlies and make you look a lot older than you are.
Recently, a survey carried out by The Journal of Hospital Infection swabbed the faces of 408 hospital staff, both with beards and clean shaven. The reason was to investigate hospital acquired infections that patients never had on being admitted to hospital. Hands, white coats, ties and equipment have all been blamed, but what about beards?
Surprisingly, the results showed that it was more likely to be the clean shaven staff that were carrying something unpleasant on their faces. The ‘smoothies’ were more than three times likely to be carrying a species known as methicillin-resistant staph aureus. MRSA is well known as a troublesome source of hospital-acquired infection because of its resistance to many current antibiotics.
So what is happening? It’s been suggested that shaving might cause micro-abrasions in the skin which in turn may support ‘bacterial colonisation and proliferation.’ Maybe, but another more plausible explanation that’s staring them in the face is that beards fight infection. So, over a 100 swabs were taken from an assortment of beards and sent off to the lab. It was noted that in a few of the petri dishes something was killing the other bacteria. The obvious suspect being a fellow microbe.
Microbes are seen as our enemy, but they don’t see us that way. Penicillin was originally extracted from a species of fungus whose properties were discovered by Alexander Fleming. So could these mysterious microbes (Beardcillin) be doing something similar? Killing fellow bacteria by producing some sort of toxin? Possibly, but further, expensive research needs to be carried out.
More Info on BBC ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’.