Back Acne and P. Acnes

The Tiny, Microscopic Reason Behind Your Back Acne

Research Spotlight: Decrease in Diversity of Propionibacterium acnes Phylotypes in Patients with Severe Acne on the Back.

Why Does This Matter?

  • Millions of people have acne, but there are several possible causes for the disease
  • Knowing the cause of the disease in a microscopic level can help doctors and researchers find a “cure” to acne

The pimple is far from simple. Acne itself is a complex skin condition that affects many people. Specifically, researchers identified that acne is primarily associated with the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, which is a common microorganism on the skin. The P. acnes bacteria exists in six different types and a group of researchers set out to see if certain types are seen more often in body acne.[1]

The Test: Testing Bacteria on Face and Back Acne

In the study, the researchers examined the different types of P. acnes bacteria in patients with severe acne and individuals who were acne-free. In 71% of patients with severe acne on their body, their P. acnes bacterial communities were near-identical, from acne on their face to acne on their back. However, this similarity was present in only 45% of acne-free individuals. Furthermore, the acne-free individuals had a more diverse group of P. acnes bacteria, while those with severe acne had an overwhelming predominance—on average, 95%—of only one type of P. acnes.

How Acne Treatments Can Move Forward

The study’s findings therefore suggest that one of the causes behind acne may be microscopic. Acne may be correlated to the tiny microorganisms on our skin, known as the skin’s microbiome. With the study suggesting that the diversity of the skin’s bacteria is perhaps related to acne, the common zit is far more complex than one may think. Therefore, in looking for a cure for back acne, treatment may be physically smaller than you think.

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Dagnelie MA, Corvec S, Saint-Jean M, et al. Decrease in Diversity of Propionibacterium acnes Phylotypes in Patients with Severe Acne on the Back. Acta Derm Venereol.2017;10.2340/00015555-2847PMID: 29136261 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29136261.