`Good` skin bacteria may zap zits

Updated: Mar 01, 2013, 14:56 PM IST

Los Angeles: In good news for teens, scientists have discovered that acne bacteria contain some beneficial strains which may act as body`s natural defence to protect the skin from pimples.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), along with those at
Washington University in St Louis and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute have discovered that acne bacteria contain "bad" strains associated with pimples and "good" strains that may protect the skin.

"We learned that not all acne bacteria trigger pimples’ one strain may actually help keep skin healthy," said lead author Huiying Li.

"We hope to apply our findings to develop new strategies that stop blemishes before they start, and enable dermatologists to customise treatment to each patient`s unique cocktail of skin bacteria," Li said in a statement.

The scientists looked at a tiny microbe: Propionibacterium acnes, bacteria that thrive in the oily depths of our pores. When the bacteria aggravate the immune system, they cause the swollen, red bumps associated with acne.

Using over-the-counter pore-cleansing strips, researchers lifted P acnes bacteria from the noses of 49 pimply and 52 clear-skinned volunteers.

After extracting the microbial DNA from the strips, Li`s laboratory tracked a genetic marker to identify the bacterial strains in each volunteer`s pores and recorded whether the person suffered from acne.

Next, they cultured the bacteria from the strips to isolate more than 1,000 strains. Washington University scientists sequenced the genomes of 66 of the P acnes strains, enabling UCLA co-first author Shuta Tomida to zero in on genes unique to each strain.

"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 Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

"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," Li added.

"We suspect that this strain contains a natural defense mechanism that enables it to recognise attackers and destroy them before they infect the bacterial cell," Li said.

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.