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The role of viruses in the fight against acne

A particular type of bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, is the main cause of the unpleasant, and sometimes disfiguring, appearance of a disease that doctors call acne vulgaris (acne vulgaris). The bacteria live inside the skin cavities which contain hair follicles and sweat glands. However, the bacteria that cause acne have an adversary: a virus called bacteriophage or (for short) a phage. Phages integrate their genetic material into the bacterial genome, causing them to produce more and more new phages until they "burst".

Scientists at the University of California have studied in detail 11 different bacteriophages that kill the bacteria that cause acne. Researchers have discovered that, unlike most phages, the viruses that can kill acne-causing bacteria are very similar and have relatively minor differences in their genetic structure.

Most phages have the ability to kill most of the bacterial strains that cause acne.

Phages are programmed to search for and kill specific bacteria. Thus, phages whose action is directed against P. acnes, can only attack a given micro-organism and cannot act against, for example, E. coli .

These properties make phages ideal candidates for the development of anti-acne therapy based on the topical application of phages.

Phages also produce an enzyme that breaks down the cell wall of acne-causing bacteria. According to the researchers, this enzyme in itself can be a good tool for treating acne.