Most of us have experienced acne at some point or another in our lives. It can be embarrassing and painful and can lead to self-esteem issues if emotional scars are left even after the physical symptoms are gone.
The most common cause of acne is bacteria on the skin that leads to infection and inflammation. What if there was a way to destroy this acne-causing bacteria so that acne never has a chance on your skin? Well, there seems to be. It is a bacteria-eating virus that can potentially be used as acne treatment. Really? Yes. A study published in the Journal mBio, indicated that some viruses can target specific acne-causing bacteria.
On the skin at any given time there are many microbe communities, although not all causing harm. Specifically, the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes seem to be the cause of the symptom.
This is a dominant member of the microflora on the skin of the human face and shows little diversity thanks to the stability of the environment in which it lives (the human face is largely lipid-rich and anaerobic for its inhabitants).
When P. acnes bugs aggravate the immune system, it causes the swollen, red bumps linked with acne. Most effective treatments work by reducing the number of P. acnes bacteria on the skin.
“We know that sex hormones, facial oil and the immune system play a role in causing acne, however, a lot of research implicates P. acnes as an important trigger. Sometimes they set off an inflammatory response that contributes to the development of acne,” explains Laura Marinelli, UCLA postdoctoral researcher in Modlin’s lab, who led the study.
Using over-the-counter pore cleansing strips from the drugstore, researchers lifted acne bacteria and the P. acnes viruses from the noses of both pimply and clear-skinned volunteers.
When the team sequenced the bacteriophages’ (a virus that affects bacteria) genomes, they found that viruses possess multiple features – such as small size, limited diversity and the broad ability to kill their hosts – that make them ideal candidates for the development of a new anti-acne therapy.