It is a condition that blights the lives of millions of teenagers and young adults.
Now scientists have made a breakthrough in the hunt for something of a medical holy grail – a treatment for acne.
A vaccine which promises to halt a key cause of the unsightly and painful condition could be available within as little as five years, they say.
Hope ahead: Scientists believe a vaccine to cure acne could be available within as little as five years
The breakthrough approach is a departure from current treatments, which mostly rely on antibiotics to ‘blitz’ the bacteria that cause spots.
The medicines can upset the skin’s natural balance and leave some sufferers at risk of scarring. Scientists at the University of California at San Diego are working in partnership with the world’s biggest vaccine company, Sanofi Pasteur, to create the jab.
Rather than focusing on eliminating the main acne-causing bacteria, P-Acnes, it aims to neutralise a ‘troublemaking protein’ produced by the germs and key to the formation of spots. Acne is caused when the skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much sebum – the skin’s natural moisturiser – clogging the pores.
The protein then starts killing skin cells, causing the body to try to fight back with inflammation, flooding the area with white blood cells. The result is sore pimples.
New rival: The strongest cure for acne currently out there, Roaccutane, can make skin sensitive and has been linked to birth defects and depression
The experts, carrying out tests on the skin on the ears of mice, created antibodies which home in on the protein and ‘turn it off’. Mice given doses of bacteria treated with the antibodies developed much less inflammation than those given untreated bugs.
The animals’ immune systems can also be stimulated to produce their own antibodies, the study found.
More than eight out of ten teenagers suffer from spots, and the global market for acne medications is estimated at about £1.87billion a year.
While vaccines are usually used to prevent illnesses, the jab would be instead be used as a treatment. It is too early to say how often it would need to be used.
Dr Harald Gollnick, of the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne, says it may be available within five to ten years.
Despite the range of treatments currently available, acne leaves 20 per cent of sufferers with scarring.
The strongest, Roaccutane, can make skin sensitive and has been linked to birth defects and depression.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Susannah Baron, of the BMI Hospital in Canterbury, said: ‘Acne affects so many teenagers at a very difficult stage of life. A vaccine that potentially targets inflammation could prove very helpful.’
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