P. Acnes Found to Cause Infections Other Than Acne

Peter Lambert, PhD, a professor of microbiology at Aston University's school of life and health sciences, has reported that Propionibacterium acnes, the bacterium that causes acne, may already be present within the body and cause other infections. Lambert presented this finding at the Society for Applied Microbiology Winter Meeting 2011 on January 12, 2011.

According to a press release by Wiley-Blackwell on Lambert's research , P. acnes can cause infections of artificial joints and heart valves (endocarditis), as well as eye infections and chest infections. However, rather than being transferred from the skin at the site of these infections through an open wound during surgery, as previously thought, P. acnes has been found to be present within the body. This suggests that P. acnes should not be discarded in the diagnosis of disease.  

Lambert noted in the press release that it is important to recognize that P. acnes can grow slowly inside of body cells as well as on the surface of medical devices in the body. It has long been associated with common acne, where it contributes to the inflammation and pain, and recent studies show it may also be involved in other important conditions such as prostate cancer.

Since P. acnes is often treated topically with OTC skin care products, perhaps the further development of this research will affect the treatment protocol for the bacteria.

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