"We were interested to learn that the bacterial strains looked very different when taken from diseased skin, compared to healthy skin," said co-author Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist and director of the Center for Immunotherapeutics Research at LA BioMed at HarborUCLA Medical Center. "Two unique strains of P. acnes appeared in one out of five volunteers with acne but rarely occurred in clear-skinned people."
The biggest discovery was still to come.
"We were extremely excited to uncover a third strain of P. acnes that's common in healthy skin yet rarely found when acne is present," said Li, who is also a member of UCLA's Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging. "We suspect that this strain contains a natural defense mechanism that enables it to recognize attackers and destroy them before they infect the bacterial cell."
Offering new hope to acne sufferers, the researchers believe that increasing the body's friendly strain of P. acnes through the use of a simple cream or lotion may help calm spotty complexions.
"This P. acnes strain may protect the skin, much like yogurt's live bacteria help defend the gut from harmful bugs," Li said. "Our next step will be to investigate whether a probiotic cream can block bad bacteria from invading the skin and prevent pimples before they start."
Additional studies will focus on exploring new drugs that kill bad strains of P. acnes while preserving the good ones; the use of viruses to kill acne-related bacteria; and a simple skin test to predict whether a person will develop aggressive acne in the future.
"Our research underscores the importance of strain-level analysis of the world of human microbes to define the role of bacteria in health and disease," said co-author George Weinstock, associate director of the Genome Institute and professor of genetics at Washington University in St. Louis.
|Contact: Elaine Schmidt|
University of California - Los Angeles