This Halloween, the Jack-o'-lanterns set out on porches to beckon trick-or-treaters may not scare many children, but dangerous germs should beware.

Researchers have discovered that proteins in pumpkin skin can fight even drug-resistant microbes, including a fungus that infects millions of Americans every year.

The study, published in the current issue of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that proteins extracted from pumpkin rinds inhibits the growth of microbes like Candida albicans (C. albicans), which causes vaginal yeast infections, diaper rash and other health problems.

One particularly powerful protein strongly inhibited the growth of C. albicans with no toxic effects. It also blocked the growth of fungi that attack important plant crops, making it a potentially valuable natural agricultural fungicide.

Study authors Kyung-Soo Hahm and Yoonkyung Park suggest that the pumpkin protein could be developed into natural medicine for fighting yeast infections in humans. Pumpkins have long been used in folk medicine to treat ills ranging from kidney inflammation to parasites.

Pumpkin skin squashes germs
Proteins in pumpkin skin can kill microbes that cause infection.