Teens Take Heart: Good Bacteria Could Help You Win The Acne War
February 28, 2013

Teens Take Heart: Good Bacteria Could Help You Win The Acne War

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

You may want to think twice before waging a thermonuclear war against acne and blasting your face with some astringent chemical to kill off all bacteria. A new study from UCLA has found there are good and bad kinds of bacteria which live on your face. The good bacteria may even be responsible for protecting your face against the bad, zit-bringing bacteria. These life-changing results have been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and could lead to brand new methods for treating acne.

Huiying Li, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is the principal investigator of this study. She claims her findings could one day lead to treatments which would “enable dermatologists to customize treatment to each patient's unique cocktail of skin bacteria” and one day even bring an end to zits altogether.

To conduct this study, Li and team recruited 101 volunteers – 49 pimple-laden and 52 clean-faced – to wash their faces and hand over their bacteria to the research team. The LABioMed and UCLA team then extracted the DNA from this bacteria and tracked a genetic marker to identify which bacteria were associated with those volunteers who suffer from acne and those who do not.

This bacteria is aptly known as P. acnes and Li´s lab was able to isolate more than 1,000 strains.

"We were interested to learn that the bacterial strains looked very different when taken from diseased skin, compared to healthy skin," explained Dr. Noah Craft, the co-author of this study and a dermatologist at the Center for Immunotherapeutics Research at LA BioMed at Harbor—UCLA Medical Center.

"Two unique strains of P. acnes appeared in one out of five volunteers with acne but rarely occurred in clear-skinned people,” said Dr. Craft in a statement.

Their next discovery truly astonished them. Li and team discovered a third strain of P. acnes that was quite common on the clean-skinned faces, but not at all common on those faced with acne. The researchers now suspect this bacteria may be responsible for keeping acne at bay, and if they can isolate this strain, they may be able to create a cream to surpass all other creams.

"This P. acnes strain may protect the skin, much like yogurt's live bacteria help defend the gut from harmful bugs," said Li.

"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."

In addition to creating a probiotic cream to protect the face against zit attacks, the team will now begin looking for new drugs that will target and kill the bad bacteria while leaving the good bacteria unharmed. They´ll also be able to determine if a person is naturally prone to acne attacks and if so, which method they should take to approach the problem.

Dr. Vincent Young, a researcher with the University of Michigan who was not involved in this study told the LA Times no one would have attempted this kind of genetic research years ago. Yet, today´s modern technology makes it easier to perform all the genetic sequencing necessary to locate these individual strains of bacteria.

"They'd say, why waste the money?" he said. "Now you can do this in a couple of days."