A novel method to control the balance of skin microflora. Part 1. Attack on biofilm of Staphylococcus aureus without antibiotics

J Dermatol Sci. 2005 Jun;38(3):197-205. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2005.01.006. Epub 2005 Mar 2.


Background: Staphylococcus aureus (SA) is usually present in atopic dry skin, and not only in regions seriously affected by atopic dermatitis. SA discharges various toxins and enzymes that injure the skin, and forms a biofilm from fibrin fiber and glycocalyx; the biofilm is important for adhesion of SA to the skin and for resistance to anti-microbial agents. Even highly effective moisturizers do not work perfectly on atopic dry skin. Staphylococcus epidermidis (SE) is a major constituent of skin microflora on healthy human skin, and provides protection against the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Objectives: Since treatment with anti-microbials may lead to re-growth of SA, which grows faster than other Staphylococci and often shows antibiotic resistance, we searched for novel approaches to control the skin-microfloral balance without using conventional anti-microbials.

Method: Biofilm formation by SA in vitro was observed in detail using scanning electron microscopy. Approximately 500 substances were screened for a selective effect on SA growth and SA biofilm.

Results: We found that xylitol inhibited the formation of glycocalyx, and farnesol dissolved fibrin fibers. Farnesol suppressed the growth of only SA, and did not affect that of SE. Xylitol and farnesol synergistically inhibited biofilm formation by SA.

Conclusion: Xylitol and farnesol have potential for controlling the skin-microfloral balance because of their selective effects and inhibition of biofilm formation. They might provide a useful and safe method to care for skin colonized by SA, without using antibiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / microbiology
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Farnesol / administration & dosage
  • Farnesol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / ultrastructure
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / physiology
  • Xylitol / administration & dosage
  • Xylitol / pharmacology


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Farnesol
  • Xylitol