I recently had a great idea when thinking about probiotics. They are used to recolonize the gut with good bacteria after a course of antibiotics killed them off. Well why can’t the same be done for the skin in acne patient? We all have bacteria all over our skin and antibiotics have been the mainstay of acne treatment for years but is only minimally effective. Maybe the problem with acne patients isn’t that they have bad bacteria, but instead maybe they lack good bacteria. So after a course of antibiotics maybe we need to be spreading good bacteria on their skin.
Well like most great ideas someone already beat me to it. Dr. Huiying Le at UCLA medical center examined the bacteria on acne patients’ skin and compared it to those with clear skin. They looked specifically at a bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes which has been linked to acne for years. They found that acne patients had two strains that clear skin patients did not have that they dubbed RT4 and RT5. And, more importantly, they found a strain that clear skin patients had that acne patients did not have called RT6. And RT6 was found to have genes that ward off bacterial viruses and potentially may prevent colonization with bad strains.
So in yet another area we are finding that the answer may not be killing our microscopic friends but instead making sure we are carrying the right ones.
We have ignored these possible treatment options by using beneficial microbes for far too long but I am glad to see the increased interest in this field. If you want another very interesting example of our symbiotic relationship with microscopic organisms read about the possible link between hookworm and allergies.