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Natural skin virus can fight against acne bacteria

American researchers have identified an active protein in the skin virus that could be used as a new acne treatment.

According to the results of the study conducted jointly at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pittsburgh, the harmless virus known as bacteriophages (phage) --that unlike viruses such as HIV or poliovirus feed only on bacteria and not on human cells -- can target bacteria responsible for Propionibacterium acnes.

"Acne affects millions of people, yet we have few treatments that are both safe and effective,” said the lead scientist of the study, Professor Robert Modlin from the University of California at Los Angeles.

"Harnessing a virus that naturally preys on the bacteria that causes pimples could offer a promising new tool against the physical and emotional scars of severe acne," he added.

The team analyzed the genetic codes of the residing viruses after removing them from the noses of volunteers using over-the-counter cleansing strips.

The result unraveled that the viruses were all unusually similar, sharing more than 85% of their DNA. “This suggests the bugs they attack are unlikely to have developed resistance to them, which would normally drive genetic diversity through natural selection.”

The discovery also indicated that all the phages carried a gene coding a protein called endolysin, an enzyme that breaks down bacterial cell walls.

"Acne can dramatically disfigure people and undermine their self-esteem, especially in teens. We can change patients' lives with treatment. It's time we identified a new way to safely treat the common disorder," researchers claim.

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