Is There a Vaccine for Acne?
New data has shown us that there is more to the story about the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes than we thought. For years, we have known that P. acnes levels correlate with acne. The bacteria bind to the toll-like receptor 2 and cause an inflammatory response that leads to acne breakouts.
Antibiotics have been used for years to kill P. acnes, but their overuse has resulted in antibiotic resistance. A few years ago, blue light became a popular way to kill acne-causing bacteria, but then we discovered that blue light also increases skin aging. Benzoyl peroxide, another common acne treatment, may also increase skin aging. So there is a huge need for innovation in the area of acne treatment.
Well, that good news may be coming. Scientists have discovered that P. acnes bacteria turn on CAMP factor 2. Vaccines have been developed to target this CAMP factor 2, which may play a role in treating acne. Mice trials and trials on human skin have been done, but there is still a lot to learn before an acne vaccine becomes a reality.
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Read on to learn more of the science behind how an acne vaccine could work, and more about why bacteria can have such a large impact on your skin’s health.
P. acnes Bacteria and the Microbiome
Everyone has some amount of P. acnes bacteria, as well as many different kinds of bacteria, living on their skin. This combination of microorganisms living on your skin is called the microbiome. For people with acne-prone skin, there is too much P. acnes bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria. Many different factors can affect P. acnes colonization, including genetics, pH, sebum (oil) production, used of antimicrobial ingredients, blue light exposure and clogged pores.
We have known for years that this overgrowth of P. acnes bacteria contributes to acne. Thus, current acne treatments primarily work by targeting and killing P. acnes bacteria to restore a balanced microbiome and reduce inflammation caused by P. acnes.
For the many reasons stated above, current acne treatments like antibiotics, blue light therapy, and benzoyl peroxide have limitations and side effects. In an effort to find a better, more effective option, researchers have begun to focus on creating a vaccine that may prevent the development of acne altogether.
How Would an Acne Vaccine Work?
In studies involving mice and human skin samples, researchers found promising evidence that by targeting a toxic protein called Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson (CAMP) factor, they could reduce both the overgrowth of P. acnes bacteria on the skin, as well as the inflammatory response that P. acnes causes.
Specifically, CAMP factor 2 appears to be crucial for P. acnes survival and overgrowth. Thus, a vaccine that would target and disable CAMP factor 2 may be able to treat or even prevent acne in acne-prone individuals.
Before a vaccine like this can be developed and made available to the public, there is still more research to be done. First, scientists need to be careful not to disturb the good bacteria that exist on the skin with such a vaccine, or different skin problems could arise. Secondly, more research is needed to determine whether or not a vaccine that targets CAMP factor 2 would be effective for different strains of P. acnes bacteria. Finally, eliminating all P. acnes bacteria could have negative consequences for your skin’s delicate microbiome. A vaccine would need to be able to eliminate excessive acne-causing bacteria without getting rid of it completely.
When Will An Acne Vaccine Be Available?
This acne vaccine is currently still in its testing phase, but researchers believe it could be available in the next 5 to 8 years. It has already been successfully tested on mice and human skin biopsies, so the next step would be to test it on real acne patients.
In the meantime, find a doctor in your area who can give you the Baumann Skin Type questionnaire to find out your skin type and the most effective acne treatments for your skin. While there are limitations to current acne treatments, prescribing a treatment plan based on the unique characteristics of your skin can help to reduce side effects and give you the best results.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the US, so it is exciting news that in just a few years, we may have a vaccine to treat and prevent it. Stay tuned for the latest news and updates on this vaccine as it continues to be tested.
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