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Drug-resistant Bacteria Shifting the Treatment of Acne

Posted: April 17, 2009


As the bacteria that causes acne develops more of a resistance to drugs used to treat it, skin care professionals and dermatologists are increasingly needing to look elsewhere for ways to solve this skin issue.

It sounds like the stuff of teenage nightmares: super strong, freakishly clever, mutant acne. But dermatologists say the bacteria that causes acne is increasingly developing resistance to some commonly prescribed antibiotics, including tetracycline and erythromycin. And while the superbug MRSA is a widely known threat in the general medical community, some patients are surprised to learn that the P. acnes bacterium is equally capable of rebelling against drugs and developing superpowers.

“There’s been so much attention to MRSA and other kinds of resistant bacteria, which truly can kill you, whereas acne doesn’t kill you,” says Dr. Alan Fleischer, a professor and chair of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “And yet we doctors see patients who have resistant acne, and we do need to be cognizant of changes. The bacteria are changing, are adapting and becoming resistant.”

Antibiotics are one of the most frequently prescribed treatments for acne. They target the bacteria and inflammation, and often are key in clearing up the patient’s skin. But as antibiotic-resistant acne becomes a growing concern, dermatologists are moving away from using antibiotics as a primary weapon against acne, fearing that the long-held go-to treatments may be contributing to communal antibiotic resistance.