New Research Identified Good and Bad Acne Bacteria

New Research Identified Good and Bad Acne Bacteria

Good and Bad Acne Bacteria

Propionibacterium acnes bacteria

There are Both Good and Bad Acne Bacteria, a New Study has Revealed

Acne-causing bacteria can be found virtually on every person’s skin. So, why is it that 20% of the human population is lucky enough to have a single pimple or so developing on their skins just occasionally in their lifetimes? What secret do these people have?

In a new UCLA research that was conducted in collaboration with scientists at Washington University in St. Louis as well as the LA Biomedical Research Institute it was revealed that acne bacteria contain both “bad” and “good” strains, with the former associated with development of pimples while the latter may protect the human skin. It is a discovery that promises to be a boon for all teens across the globe.

The results of this survey were first published in the February 28, 2013 edition of the medical Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Its findings could be used to develop a number of new medical therapies for both the prevention and treatment of acne.

In this study, Huiying Li was the lead author of the report by the research group. She is a molecular and medical pharmacology assistant professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. She hopes that her group’s findings can be applied to come up with new strategies that in addition to being used to stop acne blemishes even before they start developing on the skin, could also help dermatologists customize treatment for each acne patient’s unique mix of skin bacteria.

Propionibacterium acnes is a tiny microbe that carries a big name and thrives in the oily depths of our skin pores. This is the skin bacteria that the researchers looked at. It is capable of aggravating our immune systems, leading to the swollen, red bumps associated with the disfiguring skin disorder.

The group of UCLA and LA BioMed researchers used over-the-counter pore-cleansing strips to collect samples of P. acnes bacteria from the noses of 52 clear-skinned and 49 pimply volunteers. Li’s research lab then extracted samples of microbial DNA from the strips before doing an experiment to track a genetic marker that was used to identify what bacterial strains was present in each person’s pores. Finally, they recorded whether that person was suffering from acne at the time of the experiment.

The next phase of the study involved culturing the bacteria obtained from the strips so that more than 1,000 strains were isolated. The researchers from Washington University then sequenced the genomes of 66 out of the 1000 P. acnes strains to enable UCLA’s co-first author Shuta Tomida to isolate the genes unique to each of the strains.

Co-author Dr. Noah Craft, who is a dermatologist and director of LA BioMed’s HarborUCLA Medical Center’s Center for Immunotherapeutics Research explains that their interest focused on examining why bacterial strains taken from diseased skin looked very different from those obtained from healthy skin. They realized that two unique P. acnes strains were found in one out of every five acne patients though this was rare in clear-skinned volunteers.

But the biggest of their discoveries was yet to come…

The researchers were extremely thrilled to unearth a third P. acnes strain that is commonly found in healthy skin but rare in acned skin, said Li, who is also a member of the Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging at UCLA. They suspected that this P. acnes strain possesses a naturally-occurring defense mechanism enabling it to identify and destroy any invading attackers before they are able to subdue the bacterial cell.

It is the scientists’ belief that if this friendly P. acnes strain is increased via the use of simple creams and lotions, then spotty complexions could be calmed, giving new hope to acne patients.

According to Li, this strain of P. acnes may be able to protect the skin the same way live bacteria obtained from yogurt help defend our guts from harmful bugs. She added that her group is next going to be investigating whether a probiotic cream can be used to block bad bacteria from attacking the skin so that pimples can be prevented even before they start developing.

Further research is going to focus on the ways of developing new drugs that can destroy the bad P. acnes strains while helping preserve the good ones; using viruses to kill acne-causing bacteria as well as a simple skin test that can help dermatologists predict whether one has a future probability of developing aggressive acne.

Another co-author of the report, George Weinstock, who is a professor of genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and an associate director of the Genome Institute explained that his group’s research underscores how strain-level analysis of the human microbes define what role bacteria play in health and disease. He stated that their type of analysis is having a much higher resolution than earlier surveys that solely relied on bacterial cultures or just made distinctions between various bacterial species.

This study was supported by a grant (UH2AR057503) from the Human Microbiome Project, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, through the National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases.

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