Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Virus zaps bugs that cause "zits"

Acne can be the scourge of the teenage years! At this critical time of life when hormones are erupting, the brain is scrambling to make those key emotional connections, all of a sudden the skin seems to erupt and scream "look how crazy I am on the outside too"! And it's not just one or two teenagers who suffer from this untimely embarrassment of spotty skin, it happens to millions of them every year.

Unfortunately, medical science has been fairly static in it's method of managing this distressing condition - not that there isn't something to offer. The standard treatment will involve lotions to clean the skin and unplug the pores, and antibiotics to reduce the surface population of causative bacteria. In females, appropriate usage of hormone contraceptive pills can have a big impact and for the most recalcitrant types there is always Roaccutane - but that's a "heavy" medicine and not without potentially serious side effects.

So when something new for the treatment of Acne comes on the radar, it should make us sit up and take notice for the better all round health of our children and grandchildren.

Researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburg have recently shown that the bacteria that are involved in the Acne process have their very own natural enemy in the form a a family of viruses. Propionibacterium acnes, or P Acnes to its friends, is thought to play a role in the inflammation process that leads to the angry, red "zits" that populate the teenage face when they suffer from acne. But P Acne is also susceptible to a harmless virus that lives on our skin and which invades the bacterial cell forcing it to produce more virus particles until it bursts. The hope is that if this virus can be harnessed, then one key element of the acne process may be eradicated and the impact of the condition greatly reduced. The good news is that the virus is specific for P Acnes and does not affect the other billions of bacteria that call our body home.

Like all research, when you answer one question then more appear! If the virus is present on healthy skin, then why do people get acne in the first place? The scientists are cautiously optimistic that they can answer some of these questions, but like all good basic research it does move slowly and there's still a long way to go before they can even think of trying a treatment on humans. But it's a promising lead for a condition that affects millions around the world and causes enormous "heartache" to our young people at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

No comments: