Could a virus cure acne?

Researchs have isolated and sequenced a family of viruses that seem only to target the bacteria that causes acne — and could mean a new generation of targeted skin treatments.

The researchers have spotted 11 viruses that solely target Propionibacterium acnes, and sequenced their genome from samples taken from volunteers with and without acne, across a wide range of ages and locations. These 11 P. acnes phages have remarkably little genetic diversity, are small in size, and specialized to target the acne-causing bacteria. In other words, everything that would make them an excellent treatment for zits.

"We know that sex hormones, facial oil and the immune system play a role in causing acne, however, a lot of research implicates P. acnes as an important trigger," explained first author Laura Marinelli in a press release. "Sometimes they set off an inflammatory response that contributes to the development of acne."

Now the researchers are turning their attention to isolating the active protein from the phages, and seeing if that's just as effective as a whole virus, with the aims of developing it into a treatment. Here's hoping that acne doesn't evolve a resistance to it too quickly.

Top image: Lishmay/Flickr.