A team of microbiologists has been working on the problem of a safe and effective treatment for a condition that affects millions of people each year. Pimples form when a hair follicle, or pore, clogs with oil, debris and dead skin cells. Infection from bacteria that live on the skin surface, Propionibacterium acnes, further aggravates the clog. This combination of infection and inflammation leads to skin eruptions known as a white or black heads.
It is unclear why some individuals are more prone to this condition then others, but there does seem to be a genetic relationship. When the body produces excess oil, it increases pimple flair ups. For some, irregular shedding of skin cells adds to the problem. Acne is often associated with the teen years due to the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, but it is common in babies and adults, as well.
The human body has its own system of checks and balances. You see this prominently in the battle between viruses and bacteria. Normal flora means that certain microscopic organisms live in different areas like P. acnes on skin, and even are part of the processing. For example, the body relies on bacteria to help break down food and create waste. Viruses are a control mechanism to keep bacteria from taking over the host organism – that would be you. This means that when bacteria grow unchecked, they make you sick. Some viruses exist only to prevent that from happening.
Viruses naturally prey on bacteria and are normal flora, as well. Both microorganisms, viruses and bacteria, coexist peacefully on your skin, keeping each other in balance. When a clog develops and infection of the P. acnes bacteria occurs, the balance is off kilter. In other words, there are more bacteria than viruses. Now scientists believe they can to treat the condition using the viruses as a tool.
Researches from the University of California state in an article for mBio that restoring the balance might put an end to acne infections. The virus in question, by design, fights the over development of the bacteria that causes acne. Containing this one bacterium is its only job. It may be possible to use that natural process to reduce or even eliminate flair ups. Scientists have not proven this will work conclusively, but the results do look promising.
The fight against blemishes may seem small in comparison to other medical conditions, but acne causes more damage than you might realize. At the very least, it is a source of emotional distress for those affected. At its worst, it can lead to disfigurement that lasts a lifetime. Controlling the infection that is part of the acne picture often requires long-term antibiotic usage. It is now clear that the overuse of antibiotics is leading to the growth of resistant strains. Any treatment that reduces the need for antibiotic therapy is a critical.
Currently, acne is the most common skin ailment in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This condition affects over 40 million people each year at a cost of over 2 billion dollars. It is possible by using the body’s own network of defense, the threat of acne might become a thing of the past.
It is possible the body provides a natural way to fight the devastating effects of acne. Researchers are looking at using viruses to eliminate this condition that threaten millions of teens each year.