THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Your odds of having acne
may depend on whether the "good" strain of a particular type of
bacteria lives on your skin, a new study suggests.
"People never think of wanting to have good bacteria on their skin," said lead author Huiying Li, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But some of them you should love." It's the presence of acne-defeating bacteria that allows people without acne to live relatively pimple-free, she explained.
Li and her team studied the bacterial strains on people's faces
using genomic analysis of microbial DNA. They discovered that the
bacteria responsible for acne -- called
P. acnes-- are more complex than previously understood.
When studied at the genomic level, bacteria with the same name
were actually representative of three different strains. People
with acne tend to have one or two of the strains associated with
the condition, while those with healthy skin have a good strain
that seems to destroy offending bacteria.
So whether or not you develop acne may be tied to what strain of
P. acnesyour skin carries.
The strain of
P. acnesthat is associated with healthy skin works much like
the way live bacteria in yogurt help defend the intestines from
harmful bacteria, Li said.
"Our next step will be to explore whether a probiotic cream might block bad bacteria from invading the skin, preventing pimples before they start," Li said. She hopes to find a way to transplant the good strain of bacteria that is plentiful on the faces of people with healthy skin to those with acne.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States,
affecting 40 to 50 million people -- primarily teens and young
adults -- but it can strike at any age, according to the American
Academy of Dermatology. Li said archeological records show the
disease goes back to ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs used magic and
spells to try to treat the problem. Acne is typically treated with
oral medications such as antibiotics, and topical creams that can
help reduce oil on the skin and kill bacteria.
When Li and her team originally compared the bacteria on the
faces of people with and without acne, they couldn't find any
differences in the amount of
P. acneson the skin. So they next looked at whether
differences existed in the strains of bacteria present.
The study, published in the Feb. 28 issue of the
Journal of Investigative Dermatology, included 49 people
with acne and 52 without the condition, and used over-the-counter
pore-cleansing strips to get a sample of the microbes in the pores
on top of their noses. The scientists wanted to get the sample from
the pores because they contain more bacteria than the skin does, Li
Most of the participants -- 59 females and 42 males, average age
of 22 -- had not been treated for acne in the past or were not
being treated when the samples were collected. The researchers
looked at the genetic variation in strains of
P. acnesto better understand the skin "microbiome" -- the
combination of microbes and genomes interacting in a given
Two unique strains of
P. acnesappeared in 20 percent of the people but rarely in
those without the condition, and a third strain of
P. acneswas found only rarely on the skin of those with
Dr. David Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at the
Yale School of Medicine, said the research, while not entirely
innovative, begins to create the fact base for better understanding
the skin microbiome. "In general, this is a hot topic," said
Leffell, who was not involved with the new study.
He said the discovery could potentially lead to agents that are
specifically designed to normalize the bacterial population or
eliminate strains identified as harmful.
For her part, Li said she expects the research will ultimately
lead to a personalized medicine approach to acne treatment, with
particular creams formulated to match the specific strains on each
person's skin. "Some people may have a lot of bad strains and no
good strains, so the strategy for them may be to kill all the bad
strains first and then apply the good ones," she said. For those
who have a combination of good and bad strains, the probiotics
could be designed to promote the good strains, she explained.
When it comes to acne, Li says it's ultimately the balance of
strains that may be the key to skin health.
Learn more about acne from the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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