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The Dirt      

The Skin Microbiome


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Modernization of the Skin Microbiome

The main premise of AOBiome is that human skin was historically colonized with Nitrosomonas, a form of Ammonia-Oxidizing-Bacteria (AOB). AOB have evolved a specialized purpose: they derive their energy solely from consuming (oxidizing) ammonia and urea.

Why do we believe this? AOB are extremely ubiquitous in nature. This is because they play a crucial role in the nitrogen cycle everywhere on the planet. As a result, anywhere that we find ammonia (even if it is thousands of feet below sea level & has never seen daylight), we will find a form of Ammonia-Oxidizing-Bacteria.

But there is one exception: The only place that ammonia exists without AOB is human skin. This seems like an incredible outlier. Knowing how sensitive Nitrosomonas and other AOB are to modern soaps and detergents, we hypothesize that it was modern hygiene and the obsession with “clean” that has stripped us of this crucial microorganism.

The next logical question becomes: Why does this microorganism matter for our skin? When Nitrosomonas consumes the ammonia and urea in your sweat, it produces two key byproducts: Nitrite and Nitric Oxide (NO).

Nitrite is a key anti-microbial (yes, a good bacteria that kills bad bacteria!) and Nitric Oxide (NO) is a key anti-inflammatory and signaling molecule that is critical for skin and general health.

Before the advent of anionic surfactants, Nitrosomonas would have colonized our skin, our sweat glands in particular, constantly secreting low amounts of NO. Due to Nitrosomonas particular sensitivity to detergents, however, they have been eradicated from our skin microbiome. As a consequence, we hypothesize that humans have become dermatologically and systemically NO-deprived – in a mildly pro-inflammatory state, with a number of our systemic NO-mediated regulatory mechanisms out of balance.

This is why AOBiome aims to re-introduce Nitrosomonas to our skin’s ecosystem, to restore natural NO levels on the skin as a crucial first step to skin health.

Read more: “Why is having a healthy skin microbiome important?”

Read more: “What is Nitric Oxide?”