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

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid