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One of the most annoying things in life is an itch that won't go away. Scientists have worked for decades to find out why we itch, and to find a cure. Researchers at Harvard Medical School in the USA have discovered that skin bacteria make us itch when they interact with our nerve cells. Lead researcher Liwen Deng said the bacteria are linked to many diseases that cause itchiness. The most common disease is eczema. Dr Leng wrote: "It's not the nicest bug to have on you, for sure. Many patients carry on their skin the very microbe we've now shown for the first time can induce itch." She added that: "Itches can be quite debilitating in patients who suffer from chronic skin conditions."
Dr Leng and her colleagues conducted their research on mice. They found an enzyme (which they dubbed V8) that was responsible for itching in the test mice. The V8 enzyme triggered a protein that made the mice itch. The scientists engineered the protein and developed a drug to stop it making the mice itch. The drug could be used to make anti-itch medication. This could block the itching process in humans. This is good news for eczema sufferers. Eczema affects around 245 million people globally. As well as itchiness, sufferers often get redness on their skin and a rash. They may also get small blisters and a thickening of the skin. Eczema is twice as common in females as it is in males.
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