A new study has made the alarming discovery that bearded men are much less likely to be harbouring diseases than those that are clean-shaven.
The research, aired on the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, analysed swabs from the faces of 408 hospital staff with and without facial hair.
According to the BBC, hospital-acquired infections are one of the major causes of disease and death in hospitals, so researchers thought the potential for facial hair to carry infections should go under the microscope.
They discovered it was actually the clean-shaven staff and not those with beards who were three times more likely to be harbouring a particularly nasty species known as methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA).
Initially, the researchers suggested that shaving might cause ‘micro-abrasions’ in the skin which could support bacterial colonisation.
However, the team, wondering if facial hair fought infections, took swabs from beards and sent them off to be analysed.
Dr Adam Roberts, a microbiologist based at University College London, managed to grow over 100 different bacteria from the beard swabs.
He discovered that a fellow microbe, was killing the other, more harmful, bacteria.
Dr Roberts identified the microbes as part of a species called Staphylococcus epidermidis and when he conducted further tests, he found they even killed off the normally drug resistant E.coli bacteria.
According to Dr Roberts, antibiotic-resistant infections kill at least 700,000 people a year, projected to rise to 10 million by 2050.
And, as there have been no new antibiotics released in the past 30 years, these new ‘beard bacteria’ could actually be very useful indeed.