Research finds microbes in skin creams can help fight acne

Findings will help dermatologists personalise acne treatment

Microbes attack bacteria

Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, US have found that adding certain types of microbes to skin cream might be helpful in the treatment of acne. They found that the microbes that cause most common forms of acne come in two types - the type that cause pimples, and a beneficial type that helps keen skin healthy.

“We hope to apply our findings to develop new strategies that stop blemishes before they start,” said lead researcher Huiying Li, adding that the findings would allow dermatologists to personalise acne treatment based on “each patient's unique cocktail of skin bacteria”.

Li and colleagues used pore cleansing strips to collect the acne bacteria Propionibacterium acnes from the noses of about 100 volunteers, half of whom had acne and half of whom had clear skin. They then sequenced the genomes of 66 strains of P. acnes.

“Two unique strains of P. acnes appeared in one out of five volunteers with acne, but rarely occurred in clear skinned people,” said Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist and Director of the Center for Immunotherapeutics Research at LA BioMed at Harbor–UCLA Medical Center.

The surprise was that a third strain commonly showed up in volunteers with healthy skin but only rarely in those with pimples. “We suspect that this strain contains a natural defence mechanism that enables it to recognise attackers and destroy them before they infect the bacterial cell,” said Li.