Scientists in Sweden have found a strain of yeast implicated in inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema, which can be killed by certain peptides and could potentially provide a new treatment.

The research, published in Letters in Applied Microbiology, looked at Malassezia sympodialis, one of the most common skin yeasts in both healthy individuals and those suffering from eczema. Scientists at the Karolinska Institute looked for a way to kill Malassezia sympodialis without harming healthy human cells.

They looked at the effect on the yeast of 21 peptides which had either cell-penetrating or antimicrobial properties. Tina Holm and colleagues at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute, added these different peptides types to separate yeast colonies and assessed the toxicity of each peptide type to the yeast.

They found that six of the 21 peptides they tested successfully killed the yeast without damaging the membrane of keratinocytes, human skin cells. Dr Holm said "many questions remain to be solved before these peptides can be used in humans. However, the appealing combination of being toxic to the yeast at low concentrations whilst sparing human cells makes them very promising as antifungal agents".