Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the skin trapped in clogged pore, surrounded by oil and no air, release fatty acids that trigger inflammation known as acne, a finding that may lead to new treatments for the condition.
The skin is the body’s first line of defence against invading germs. It is also constantly awash in bacteria of all kinds, and usually puts up no fight.
“It’s a big puzzle as to why we tolerate all these bacteria on our skin,” said lead researcher Richard Gallo, from the University of California, San Diego.
“Usually, we walk around at peace with them. But at certain times, that detente breaks down and you get an infection,” Gallo said.
Researchers studied the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria – which can contribute to acne, as well as certain other infections, ‘Health Day’ reported.
Usually, P acnes lives on the skin harmlessly. However, when the bacteria are caught in certain circumstances – in a clogged pore, surrounded by oil and no air – they can cause the inflammatory response known as acne.
Researchers found that under certain conditions, P acnes will secrete fatty acids that inhibit two enzymes in keratinocytes – cells that make up most of the skin’s outermost layer. This boosts the cells’ inflammatory reactions.
The findings, according to Gallo, may help explain the process underlying acne and folliculitis – an inflammation of a hair follicle that causes pimple-like bumps or other skin symptoms.
The study was published in the journal Science Immunology.