We've always known some people's sweat is powerful. Especially, it seems, that of people with whom we're stuck in the elevator. New research out of Europe reveals how proteins produced when we sweat destroy harmful bacteria. The discovery could help scientists design alternatives to conventional antibiotics.

"Antibiotics are not only available on prescription,” said Dr Ulrich Zachariae of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics, who took part in the study. “Our own bodies produce efficient substances to fend off bacteria, fungi and viruses. Now that we know in detail how these natural antibiotics work, we can use this to help develop infection-fighting drugs that are more effective than conventional antibiotics."

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and from Goettingen, Tuebingen and Strasbourg, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientist have known about these types of antibiotics, but this is the first time research has revealed the atomic structure of natural antibiotics like dermcidin, which is secreted by our sweat glands. Sweat spreads highly efficient antibiotics on to our skin, which protect us from dangerous bugs. If our skin becomes injured by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders.

These natural substances, known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are more effective in the long term than traditional antibiotics, because germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance against them, reports sciencedaily.com. Dermcidin's active against many nasty pathogens like tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and staph, Staphylococcus aureus. Multi-resistant strains of staph, in particular, have become an increasing menace to hospital patients. The strains are insensitive towards conventional antibiotics. The scientists hope their latest discovery can contribute to the development of a new class of antibiotics that is able to attack such dangerous germs. It may also give new life to Richard Simmons' classic, “Sweatin' to the Oldies.”