More than 40 million adults have been diagnosed with acne in the United States alone. The good news is that scientists have been looking into steps to prevent the spread of acne through vaccines, and the starting point of that vaccine may be derived from something that already exists in all human beings. Though the treatment still has to undergo several clinical trials, the creation of such a vaccine can potentially eradicate acne for good, along with the mental side effects that many people experience as a result of this skin condition.
The Christie-Atkins-Munch-Petersen (CAMP) factor is a toxin secreted by Propionibacterium acne bacteria (P-acne), which specifically inflames areas under duress from acne. The first step towards an acne vaccine, scientists have suggested, is to inhibit these P-acne. Scientists tested introducing these toxins into mice and lab-grown human skin cells, which proved successful. After testing, they’ve found antibodies they believe act as a vaccine to these toxins.
One significant factor in identifying a vaccine is understanding under what circumstances this acne thrive. The researchers noted during their trials that P-acne exhibited anaerobic tendencies, or that in short, the skin was far more likely to become inflamed when deprived of oxygen such as when covered up, when chafing under clothing, or during extensive exercise. Any vaccine developed for P-acne would have to be effective under similar circumstances.
Targeting Acne Without Harming Good Bacteria
The sensitive nature of an acne vaccine is that acne bacteria are, in effect, a part of your immune system designed to fight against virulent diseases and problems with the skin. The problem is that these bacteria can overproduce or overreact to an outbreak of foreign substances. In the case of P-acne in particular, this leads to inflammation and acne spots on the skin, and the excessive response can damage your skin, making it more prone to future attacks.
The antibodies proposed for a future acne vaccine would target P-acne specifically, to reduce inflammation without affecting any other part of the immune system’s process. Of course, creating a vaccine to a part of the body’s natural defense system is dangerous, so the team behind the research has already voiced their interest in being very careful about their research. They want to create a vaccine that affects only the parts of the acne bacteria that are necessary.
The Cause Has Been Identified, But Testing Is Still Underway
It’s important to note that although the antibodies have shown some initial success in mice, that testing doesn’t always translate to human trials. In fact, by even the most optimistic estimates roughly one in five human trials go poorly after successful animal testing. Added to that, the initial tests merely induce inflammation the scientists felt was similar to an acne breakout, they did not give the mice acne.
That’s not to undermine the magnitude of recent findings. The testing measured P-acne levels in inflamed acne and inactive acne spots and consistently found incredibly high levels of P-acne in the inflamed areas. The researchers are certain that P-acne is the direct cause of large acne lesions and excessive outbreaks. Identifying the source with such a level of assurance means we no longer have to wonder why we have acne outbreaks, only how to prevent it (P-acne).
It is also important to note that because the intention is to create a vaccine, mice testing will be inefficient for any final cure. Vaccines are created through the proliferation of human cells that are resilient to the bacteria or disease. As such, while mice can be used to test the anti-inflammatory properties of potential vaccines, testing a vaccine on mice in the final stages wouldn’t show whether the vaccine was effective or not in human cells.
The Value Of A Vaccine
Though treatments exist for acne, they often rely on topical application, absorption through pores, or oral medication. These methods of introducing chemicals into the body can inflame acne-sensitive areas or may be blocked off since P-acne produces pore-covering chemicals. The introduction of a vaccine would allow the body to build up proper antibodies from the inside and circulate them to affected areas through natural blood flow instead.
Bacteria other than the intended acne bacteria are also exposed to current skin treatments, and so the homeostasis of your body can be affected in some ways. Good bacteria on your skin may die due to the acne treatments, and it’s possible that even the acne underneath may develop resistance to the chemicals used to treat your skin condition. A vaccine would evolve and adapt at a rate similar to the P-acne though, reducing the chance of cure-resistant strains appearing.
The possibility of an acne vaccine has risen exponentially with recent research into the subject. Identifying P-acne as the cause of acne flare-ups has given researchers a clear target for their research, and their goal has become how to inhibit P-acne specifically. A vaccine could reduce acne without creating resistant strains the way other medicines do. But until positive results in humans are seen, the chances of having an acne-free future is still unclear.