Acne bug could be the cause of infections

Professor Peter Lambert
Professor Peter Lambert
17 January 2011

A bacterium which causes acne and is commonly found on the skin, is now known to cause infections all over the body. Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) has been associated with infections of artificial joints and heart valves (endocarditis), as well as eye infections and chest infections - which are common at this time of year.

Previously, researchers thought the detection of P. acnes at the site of these infections was due to contamination from the skin. For example, an infection at a site within the body after surgery,could have been caused by bacteria transferred to an open wound from the skin during an operation. But recent research from Aston University has contradicted this, suggesting P. acnes already within the body may be the cause. Although it isoften disregarded as a harmless bystander when found in blood and tissue swabs taken from patients, this bug should not be ruled out in the diagnosis of disease.

People who are wrongly diagnosed may go on to develop complications of their infection if the wrong bug is the target for treatment. So it is vital that infection with P.acnes is not ignored.

Professor Peter Lambert, expert in P.acnes infection from the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University said: “it is important to recognise that this organism has the ability to grow slowly inside our 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. Recent studies show that it might also be involved in other important conditions such as prostate cancer”

Professor Peter Lambert recently presented the Denver Russell Memorial Lecture at the Society for Applied Microbiology Winter Meeting 2011, entitled “Propionibacterium acnes: an emerging pathogen.’

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