Probiotic bacteria may find use in antibiotic-free acne treatment
While it's a good idea to avoid the overuse of antibiotics whenever possible, little else works on severe cases of acne. There may be new hope, however, as recent research suggests that probiotic bacteria could provide an effective treatment.
In the new study, scientists from Belgium's University of Antwerp set out to alter the microbiome of acne sufferers' facial skin – the microbiome is the unique community of microorganisms that inhabit a specific environment. In the case of the skin of people with acne, that community includes lesion-causing bacteria.
Led by Prof. Sarah Lebeer, the Antwerp team looked to a group of beneficial bacteria known as lactobacilli, which occur mostly in the gut and urogenital tract. Although the microbes are not commonly found on the skin, previous studies indicated that they might help fight acne if placed there.
"Lactobacilli are well-documented safe and beneficial bacteria that produce lactic acid as a broad-acting antimicrobial molecule that can inhibit the growth and activity of a wide array of competing bacteria," said Lebeer. "They can also often reduce inflammation in different conditions. Therefore, we suspected they could work for this purpose."
The scientists selected three strains of the bacteria – based on their safety, robustness and predicted immune system responses – and encased them in microcapsules. Those capsules were in turn added to a skin cream, which 10 volunteers with mild to moderate acne were instructed to apply to their faces twice a day for eight weeks.
As compared to a control group that used a placebo, the test subjects exhibited a significant reduction in inflammatory skin lesions. Additionally, the microbiome of their facial skin underwent a decrease in populations of acne-causing Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria.
And importantly, the alleviation of acne symptoms persisted for four weeks after the participants stopped using the cream. The scientists believe this may indicate that the probiotic bacteria actually altered the volunteers' immune systems, although more research still needs to be conducted on that front.
A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.