A new drug from the microbiome may someday treat acne

Optical microscope image of  Propionibacterium acnes,  the bacteria that causes acne.

Optical microscope image of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

One of the most prevalent diseases caused by our microbiome is acne.  As many people know, those little red pimples are caused by an immune response to the otherwise normal skin bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes.  Many treatments for acne use broad spectrum oral antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria, which we at the AMI discourage for reasons we have blogged about before.  New research suggests that another common microbiome bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, may have utility in fighting P. acnes and preventing acne.

Research recently published by the British Journal of Dermatology investigated the effects of using a peptide made from the microbiome bacterium Helicobacter pylori to reduce levels of P. acnes and to decrease the immune response to these bacteria.  The researchers discovered that the peptide, known as HPA3NT3, was quite effective in destroying various strains of P. acnes.  Moreover, the treatment decreased the production of interleukin-8, which is responsible for inflammation.  Finally, the researchers showed the peptide did not destroy the skin of mice nor elicit an immune response on its own.

While the study did not use humans, which would have been ideal, it showed a potential new treatment for acne.  In addition, it is another example of using natural products from the microbiome to develop new drugs, and in this case treat a common microbiome disease.  Acne is among the top 10 most common diseases in the world, and while not usually medically dangerous it does have negative consequences, so we are glad that this microbiome disease is getting some attention.

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