Increase of skin-ceramide levels in aged subjects following a short-term topical application of bacterial sphingomyelinase from Streptococcus thermophilus

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2008 Jan-Mar;21(1):137-43. doi: 10.1177/039463200802100115.


Several studies have demonstrated that ceramides play an essential role in both the barrier and water-holding functions of healthy stratum corneum, suggesting that the dysfunction of the stratum corneum associated with ageing as well that observed in patients with several skin diseases could result from a ceramide deficiency. In a previous study our group reported a significant increase in skin ceramide levels in healthy subjects after treatment in vivo with a cream containing a preparation of Streptococcus thermophilus. The presence of high levels of neutral sphingomyelinase activity in this organism was responsible for the observed increase of stratum corneum ceramide levels, thus leading to an improvement in barrier function and maintenance of stratum corneum flexibility. The aim of the present work is to investigate the effects of the topical treatment of a Streptococcus thermophilus-containing cream on ceramide levels of stratum corneum of healthy elderly women. The ceramide levels, transepidermal water loss and capacitance were evaluated on stratum corneum sheets from the forearms of 20 healthy female subjects treated with a base cream or the same cream containing a sonicated preparation of the lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus. A 2-week topical application of a sonicated Streptococcus thermophilus preparation led to significant and relevant increase of stratum corneum ceramide levels. Moreover, the hydration values of the treated forearm of each subject was significantly higher than control sites. These results suggest that the experimental cream was able to improve the lipid barrier and to increase a resistance against ageing-associated xerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Aged
  • Ceramides / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Skin / chemistry*
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / administration & dosage*
  • Streptococcus / enzymology*


  • Ceramides
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase