Using bacterial strain-level analysis, researchers associated a strain of Propionibacterium acnes with healthy skin in contrast to two other strains strongly associated with acne, according to recent study results.
“We learned that not all acne bacteria trigger pimples — one strain may help keep skin healthy,” researcher Huiying Li, PhD, assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, said in a press release.
Researchers studied 49 patients with acne (average age, 22.2 years; 31 women) and 52 patients with normal skin (average age, 29.6 years; 28 women) in Southern California. They compared the skin microbiome at the strain level and genome level of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) by sampling pilosebaceous units on patients’ noses. Commercially-available pore strips were used to take skin microcomedone samples.
The relative abundance of P. acnes was similar between groups, according to metagenomic analysis; the strain population structures, however, were significantly different. There was a strong association between strains of ribotype (RT)4 and RT5 with acne, and a strong association between healthy skin and strains of RT6. Each had unique genetic elements.
“By sequencing 66 previously unreported P. acnes strains and comparing 17 P. acnes genomes, we identified potential genetic determinants of various P. acnes strains in association with acne or health,” the researchers reported. “Our analysis suggests that acquired DNA sequences and bacterial immune elements may have roles in determining virulence properties of P. acnes strains.”
“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,” Li said in the release. “The P. acnes strains may protect the skin, much like yogurt’s live bacteria help defend the gut from harmful bugs. Our next step will be to investigate whether a probiotic cream can block bad bacteria from invading the skin and prevent pimples before they start.”