Future treatment for acne: Smearing virus guts all over your face. YAY!

Its like, instead of 'Put a bird on it!', scientists are like 'Put a virus on it!'

Got cancer? Put a virus on it!  In constant pain? Put a virus on it! Addicted to cigarettes?  Put a virus on it!  Genetic disease?  Put a virus on it!

Got acne? Put a virus on it!

Propionibacterium acnes Bacteriophages Display Limited Genetic Diversity and Broad Killing Activity against Bacterial Skin Isolates


Acne, though not life-threatening, sucks.

If you dont have acne, consider yourself lucky.  Some people can get it relatively under control with a combination of over the counter meds and prescription meds (both with obnoxious side-effects), and neurotic behaviors.  And of course, one persons ritual might not work for someone else.

Theres always Accutane (eee...).  And then there are antibiotics.  But of course antibiotics come with the obvious side-effect of drug resistant bacteria.


Fleas on the backs of fleas-- Like there are bacteria that live on us, there are viruses that live in bacteria.  Bacteriophages.  This group of scientists asked a fun question: Are the viruses on the faces of people with acne different than the viruses on the faces of people who dont have acne?  Like, maybe the folks without acne have some virus that is really good at keeping the bacteria in check!

Oh, I forgot to mention, your face is covered in viruses.  Specifically, these viruses:

Propionibacterium acnes Bacteriophages Display Limited Genetic Diversity and Broad Killing Activity against Bacterial Skin Isolates

Unfortunately, the answer to why some people have acne and some dont isnt as easy as 'good face viruses'.  It turns out that there isnt a whole heck of a lot different, genetically, between the  viruses found on acne/non-acne faces.

But the scientists still learned some cool things--

1-- The viruses they found were good at blowing up the bacteria that cause acne!  YAY! Maybe we could put viruses into anti-acne creams!

2-- The bacteria could become resistant to the viruses.  BOO!  We are back in the same boat as we were before with the antibiotics.

3-- The enzymes these viruses use to dissolve the bacterial cell wall when they want to release lots of babby viruses was also good at blowing up bacteria!  Outside of the context of the virus!  And since these enzymes target highly conserved parts of the bacterial cell wall, the bacteria arent developing resistance to the virus guts!  And instead of taking days-->weeks to work, like antibiotics, these enzymes blew up the bacteria in minutes!  So theoretically, one could make a cocktail of these enzymes (from different viruses) and turn that into an anti-acne treatment!!  YAY AGAIN!

Oh viruses!  Is there anything you all cant do?

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I've always had baby skin, and apart from the odd pimple from time to time, nothing big.

Still, that's an interesting development...

By Phil Giordana FCD (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

I'm old, but when I was a kid the treatment my pediatrician used was X-ray. Now I have to get my thyroids and other susceptible glands checked every year.

By Bert Chadick (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

Now that's a great job for some PhD student (or pharma) - making that enzyme thermostable and/or active at a range of temps so you can deliver it in a cream. Sounds pretty marketable to me.

On a different anti-acne note - I saw a poster at the Society for General Microbiology conference in the spring that talked about a number of plant essential oils being more active against acne-causing bacteria than any of the OTC spot creams, and as effective as a topical abx like Zineryt. Not sure I want to go out covered in majoram or thyme oil yet though.

Sounds like the research scientists's equivalent of robitussin.

By Composer99 (not verified) on 27 Sep 2012 #permalink

That sounds awesome! I'm 28 and battled mild to moderate acne since my teens. Unfortunately, this new development is a bit late for me. As I was joking with my sister recently, I finally grew out of puberty, apparently. My face cleared up about a year ago. But still! Go science!!

By Katie Graham (not verified) on 27 Sep 2012 #permalink

When will the viri be available in some nice lotion? I could certainly live without cystic acne even if I needed to keep the less painful and annoying bits....