Treating acne with antibiotics leads to resistance

The use of antibiotics to treat severe acne can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that cause the skin condition, say researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. They report the results of their study at the 101st General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Orlando, Florida.

"Antibiotic-resistant Propionibacterium acnes (the bacterium that causes acne) strains were signficantly more often isolated from antibiotic-treated than from non-antibiotic-treated patients. When patients with acne are treated with antibiotics, the risk of development of antibiotic resistance should be realized," says Carl Erik Nord, the lead investigator of the study.

P. acnes is part of the natural microflora of the skin and is thought to play an important role in the development of severe, inflamed acne. Antibiotics, most commonly tetracycline and erythromycin, have been used for over 20 years to treat moderate and severe forms of acne. The use of antibiotics has been connected to the development of antibiotic resistance in other bacteria, and the researchers sought to determine if that was also occurring in P. acnes.

In the study presented at the ASM Meeting, bacterial skin samples were taken from 99 patients being treated for acne with antibiotics and 30 control subjects who were not receiving antibiotic treatment. All participants had severe acne. In the group of patients treated with antibiotics the researchers found 28% had antibiotic-resistant P. acnes compared to only 6% of the control group.

The researchers say this study suggests that we should rethink current acne treatment policy. "The use of antibiotics to treat acne should be restricted and other regimens should be tested," says Nord.


Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology

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