News / Health

    Viruses Eyed as a Treatment for Acne

    Jessica Berman
    It is the curse of millions of teenagers and young adults around the world - a face disfigured by the red, swollen blemishes of an acne infection.  Scrubs, creams and antibiotics are not always effective in treating this  bacterial skin condition.  Now, researchers say they have identified a class of viruses that could give acne victims the cure they've been seeking.  

    Acne is among the most common skin complaints, according to Jenny Kim, a dermatologist who heads the Clinic for Acne, Rosacea and Aesthetics at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Kim says acne is a persistent source of misery for millions of adolescents.

    “I think the misconception is that it’s not important.  But for patients who suffer from acne, it’s a very, very disabling or concerning disease.  And because acne occurs most commonly in teens or young people when you are vulnerable to changes on your face or how you appear, it could really affect people’s psychological well-being," said Kim.

    Skin doctors are feeling increasingly helpless to do anything about acne, which is caused by a stubborn bacteria called P. acnes. The microbes take up residence in skin pores amid the hair follicles and oil, and cause inflammation that results in many small pockets of infection - commonly called pimples.

    The usual treatment is to use antibiotics to kill the acne-causing bacteria.  But dermatologist Kim says upwards of 70 percent of the acne bacterial strains around the world are becoming resistant to the standard drug arsenal of antibiotic pills and creams.

    There are stronger drugs like isotretinoin formerly known as Accutane, that can stop an acne infection and promote healing of the skin's damanged landscape.  But this drug can cause devastating birth defects in women and has been linked to psychosis and suicidal thoughts in a small sub-set of patients.

    Now, Kim and colleagues at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania are investigating a totally different approach to treating acne using bacteriophages, a type of virus that can insert itself into bacterial hosts, including P. acnes and which can destroy the pimple-producing microbes.

    The researchers have isolated and examined the genetic structures of 11 P. acne bacteriophages taken from patients.  It turns out people with persistent acne have phages with genetic structures very similar to the P. acne bacteria they inhabit, according to experts, who say that’s the reason why phages don’t kill the microbes.

    So Kim says scientists took phages from different individuals and applied them to a variety of P. acnes.

    “And they were able to kill different P. acne strains from different patients.  So, what that suggests is that the virus can be used to kill P. acnes from many people and may improve acne," she said.

    The key now, says Kim, is identifying which proteins among the dozen phages examined have the broadest action against the most common forms of acne.

    Kim foresees the day when scientists can treat or cure acne with topical skin creams formulated using viral phages.

    “We’re a long ways away from that but it’s a novel idea in that we don’t have a phage-based therapy for acne or other skin conditions.  So we are very excited about this," said Kim.

    The study on potential phage therapy for acne was published in the journal mBio.

    You May Like

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora