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Harmless skin virus can cure acne: study

The virus,called phage,is naturally built to target and kill bacteria that cause acne.

Written by Agencies | London | Published: September 25, 2012 5:01:26 pm

Scientists have discovered that a harmless virus that lives on the skin can be used to develop new treatments to get rid of pimples.

The virus,called phage,is naturally built to target and kill bacteria that cause acne – Propionibacterium acnes.

Experts at the University of California,Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pittsburgh found 11 different versions of virus in this phage family that had this power,the BBC News reported.

“Harnessing a virus that naturally preys on the bacteria that causes pimples could offer a promising new tool against the physical and emotional scars of severe acne,” lead scientist,Professor Robert Modlin,said.

Acne is caused when hair follicles become blocked with an oily substance called sebum,which the body makes to stop the hair and skin from drying out.

Normally harmless bacteria,such as Propionibacterium acnes,that live on the skin can then contaminate and infect the plugged follicles.

Phages appear to help counteract this.

When the scientists sequenced the DNA coding of the phages,they discovered that as well as sharing most of their genetic material,the viruses all had some key features in common.

All carry a gene that makes a protein called endolysin – an enzyme thought to destroy bacteria by breaking down their cell walls.

Unlike antibiotics,which kill many types of bacteria including “good” ones that live in our gut,phages are programmed to target only specific bacteria.

“Antibiotics such as tetracycline are so widely used that many acne strains have developed resistance,and drugs like Accutane,while effective,can produce risky side effects,limiting their use,” co-researcher Dr Jenny Kim,director of the UCLA Clinic for Acne,Rosacea and Aesthetics,said.

The study was published in the journal,mBio.

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