Research: Virus can kill acne bacteria

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Study: Viruses can eliminate triggering acne bacteria

Bacteria are a trigger for pimples and pustules. Some viruses can target the bacterial strains, according to scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles. The study results could soon play an important role in the treatment of pathological acne.

Permanent scars from acne
Up to 90 percent suffer from acne at times, especially during puberty. Especially in this phase of life, pimples and pustules form on the face, some with large pus. For some of those affected, acne causes severe inflammation with crusts and permanent skin scars. Today, medicine knows that "hormones, oily skin and the immune system play an important role in the development of acne," reports co-author Laura Marinelli from the University of California. Bacteria deposits also play a crucial role and are also considered to be the trigger. In order to combat this, the research team went "completely new ways".

Bacteria as a cause of pimples and pustules
Bacteria of the "Propionibacterium acne" strain are considered to be a trigger for acne. American researchers have now identified a rather unusual method of treatment. A special virus, which the scientists say is harmless to humans, can infect and kill the acne-causing bacteria. However, other vital bacteria that live on the skin flora would not be affected. The virus, which belongs to the genus of bacteriophages, is thus an “effective remedy for serious acne”, the study authors write in the journal “mBio”.

Bacteriophages can normally lead to serious damage to human health if bacterial processes serve the human organism. One example is the infestation of lactic acid bacteria by phages from untreated raw milk. But it is possible to design a drug from the virus. Another form could be the isolation of the active ingredient, which is responsible for killing the bacteria.

Virus showed enzyme activity against bacterial cell walls
In a first laboratory test, the research team was able to determine that “the virus produces an enzyme that destroys the cell walls of the acne bacteria. The germs then die as a result of this process. In a further research project, the scientists now want to isolate the active substance and check whether the sole enzyme can develop the same mechanism of action.

Increasing resistance to antibiotics in skin bacteria
The researchers justify their work with the increasing resistance of antibiotics. "Acne affects millions of people, yet there are hardly any treatments that are safe and effective," says study leader Robert Modlin. Conventional medicine is increasingly using antibiotic agents in the treatment of skin bacteria. But drugs with active ingredients such as tetracycline, which are often used for skin diseases, are often not effective because many skin bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.

Other agents that contain the pharmaceutical substance "isotretinoin" are known to "produce serious side effects". It is not uncommon for patients to suffer from inflammation of the skin, hair loss and, in severe cases, even nerve and liver damage. It is therefore time to "find new ways to treat acne promisingly and safely," Modlin emphasizes.

Eleven virus types evaluated
For the study, the scientific team evaluated the genome of a total of eleven types of virus that contaminate and kill typical acne bacteria. As it turned out, all bacteriophages were genetically very similar. "85 percent of the genes of the viral phages were identical," the researchers write. Viruses usually have large genetic differences. "Surprisingly, in contrast to other good bacteriophages analyzed, we found that P.Acnes phages are very homogeneous and have a conspicuous lack of genetic diversity," said the authors.

All phages contained a gene that contained instructions for the development of the specific enzyme endolysin. Endolysin is held responsible by the researchers for the breakdown of the cell walls in the acne germs, which ultimately causes the bacteria to die. The enzyme will therefore become the focus of subsequent research in order to design a medication for acne in the future. "We believe that these phages have numerous functions that make them an ideal candidate for the development of phage-based therapy for acne." Read also: Natural home remedies for pimples. (sb)

Read on:
Home remedies for pimples
Cure acne with the help of homeopathy

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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