A study by scientists at UCLA and the University of Pittsburg published today shows that a harmless virus that naturally lives on our skin infects and kills Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. Of course, the next step is to weaponize it against unsightly blemishes:


“There are two fairly obvious potential directions that could exploit this kind of research,” says Graham Hatfull of the University of Pittsburgh, an author of the study. “The first is the possibility of using the phages directly as a therapy for acne. The second is the opportunity to use phage-derived components for their activities.”

Unlike synthetic antibiotics, which is the currently most prescribed treatment for acne, a phage-based treatment wouldn’t cause P. acnes to develop a natural resistance.  The phage is a predator of P. acnes, not an antibiotic, so resistances can’t form. The study was published in the American Society for Microbiology, and details the process of isolating the different phages’ DNA, which found that all different species of phages on a face have incredbily similar DNA, which means that phage-based antimicrobial therapy is less likely to develop.

Of course, when a topical cream does hit the market, the medicine you buy won’t be trumpeting that it’s clearing your pores through bacteria-eating viruses that have always lived on your face.

Image courtesy of Caitlin Regan.

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