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Good Bacteria on Skin Protect against Acne

Mar 05, 2013 08:30 AM EST

Some people have clear skin with an occasional pimple now and then, while some have zits that just won't go away and even with treatment seem to be coming back with a vengeance. According to a new study, good bacteria on the skin protect against acne while bad bacteria lead to an increase in zits.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from UCLA along with colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, could lead to potential new therapeutics to treat the condition that causes embarrassment to millions of people in the world.

"We learned that not all acne bacteria trigger pimples - one strain may help keep skin healthy. We hope to apply our findings to develop new strategies that stop blemishes before they start, and enable dermatologists to customize treatment to each patient's unique cocktail of skin bacteria," said Huiying Li, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and lead author of the study, according to a news release from UCLA.

According to National Institutes of Health, acne occurs when pores on the skin get blocked due to the presence of oil, hair follicle and cells that line the pore. The bacteria grow in these blocked pores due to the presence of cells and oil. When the body detects that bacteria are growing in the pores, it starts a defense attack leading to inflammation.

For the study, researchers looked at the presence of Propionibacterium acnes on the surface of skin of the study subjects who were teens either radiating with clear skin or had a pimply-face.

Next, researchers isolated more than 1,000 strains of the bacteria. Genomes of some 60 odd strains were then sequenced to identify the genes that were giving the bacteria the ammunition to cause the breakouts.

"We were interested to learn that the bacterial strains looked very different when taken from diseased skin, compared to healthy skin. 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 co-author of the study.

Researchers also discovered a third strain that was present in healthy skin, but not on skin with acne. They say that the presence of this bacteria shows that it knows when an acne breakout will occur and prepares to fight the attack.

The good news is that researchers say the numbers of good bacteria can be raised on the surface of the skin, thus leaving the skin clear.

The study is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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