Generations of visitors to thermal springs proved right – spring water does help eczema

A one month study carried out at the Eberhard Karls University at Tübingen in Germany, and reported recently in the British Journal of Dermatology, divided 51 patients with mild or moderate atopic eczema into two groups. One received treatment with a skin cream containing the bacteria Vitreoscilla filiformis, a harmless bacteria found in the water of sulphurous thermal springs throughout Europe, and the other with a similar cream containing no bacteria, over a one month period.

Using SCORAD, a clinical evaluation tool that scores how severe a person's eczema is, they found that clinical symptoms and itching improved significantly in the V filiformis group only, and this improvement could be noticed as early as two weeks after the start of treatment while no significant difference was seen in the control group. Improvement of eczema lesions in the V filiformis group was visible to the naked eye but those using the control cream showed no improvement.

At the start of the study, a quarter of volunteer patients were found to have staphylococcus aureus on their skin and 12% were found to have streptococci and/or E coli on their skin. After a month, S aureus was reduced by 30% and Streptocci and E coli by 15% in the V filiformis group, compared to 12% and 4% respectively in the control group.

Improved barrier function of the skin, measured according to water loss from the skin, was found equally in both groups and is thought to be due to the use of a cream alone, regardless of any bacterial content, which helps to moisturise the skin and keep it hydrated.

As improvements were found in skin that was not colonised with harmful bacteria, it is thought that its effects are not purely antimicrobial (fighting harmful bacteria). The researchers believe that V filiformis contains compounds that regulate the immune system.

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July 2009

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