hope new theory
will hit the spot
vaccination against acne might become a reality, according
to new theory now being tested by researchers at Leeds.
Microbiologists and immunologists are studying a bacterium
linked to acne, which they believe may cause an inflammatory
immune response in acne sufferers, creating the lesions
which characterise the condition.
research by Dr Anne Eady at Leeds strengthened the connection
between Propionibacterium acnes and the disease,
when resistant bacteria were found on the skin of patients
not responding to antibiotic treatment. Microbiologists
Dr Mark Farrar and Professor Keith Holland believe that
certain proteins in the bacteria called heat shock
proteins are triggering the immune system of acne
sufferers, causing inflammation, and then, in a case of
mistaken identity, the immune system attacks healthy cells
on - microbiologist Dr Mark Farrar (left)
shock proteins (HSPs) are found in all organisms, and
play an essential role when cells are under stress. Some
of the sequences of amino acids which make up P. acnes
HSPs are smiliar to those found in human HSPs.
Farrar said: "In certain follicles, P. acnes may
be under stress, through fluctuation in nutrient or pH
levels, possibly due to changes that occur at puberty
when most people start to suffer from the condition. Under
stress, the bacteria may produce more HSPs, and HSPs can
induce strong immune responses. If the immune system doesnÕt
distinguish between human and bacterial proteins, it may
attack healthy cells, and so contribute to inflammation."
Farrar plans to test his theory by creating antibodies
specific to the P. acnes HSPs, and using these
to determine if the proteins are present in acne lesions.
In addition, further work will show whether the immune
systemÕs T-cells respond to parts of the protein specific
to P. acnes or those similar to the human protein.
If HSPs are proven to play a role in the condition, it
could lead to the introduction of new treatments.
Professor Eileen Ingham explains: "Acne is usually treated
with antibiotics, but this isnÕt always effective, as
bacteria can become resistant. If the HSPs are shown to
be the major cause of inflammation, children could be
vaccinated before they reach puberty, to help them develop
a regulated response to the proteins and reduce the chance
of the condition occurring."