Research Highlight

Clues to potential anti-dandruff therapies

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.148 Published online 20 November 2018

Researchers have thrown light on the roles of specific bacteria and fungi in the health and diseases of human scalp, the skin that covers the head1. This study will be useful for developing alternative treatment strategies for maintaining scalp health and treating scalp-related disorders that produce dandruff. 

Previous human-scalp-related studies from different populations had linked bacteria and fungi to dandruff, a flaking of skin that causes redness and irritation. However, the functional roles of microorganisms in scalp disorders and health remain largely explored.

By examining the scalp of 140 Indian women, an international research team including Indian researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhopal, India, found association of specific bacteria and fungi with scalp health and diseases.

The team, led by Vineet K Sharma, identified two dominant bacteria — Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Populations of P. acnes were found to be associated with healthy scalp and were thus known as ‘good bacteria’ whereas those of S. epidermidis were linked with dandruff-rich scalp and were thus described as the ‘bad bacteria’.

The ‘good bacteria’ are actively involved in the synthesis of biotin and other B vitamins that are essential for a healthy scalp.

Two fungi were also identified. The variations in the proportions of these two fungi are associated with a healthy or dandruff-rich scalp in different human populations.

The researchers report that several new fungal species, constituting almost 40% of the total fungal species, are associated with dandruff in the Indian population.


1. Saxena, R. et al. Comparison of healthy and dandruff scalp microbiome reveals the role of commensals in scalp health. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 8, 346 (2018)