A Vaccine For…Acne?

While it’s true that acne isn’t a life-threatening condition, and a cure hasn’t exactly been a high priority of the medical establishment, it’s a condition that most of us will suffer, or have suffered at some point in our lives.  It’s most common in teens, but can sometimes persist into adulthood, and in serious cases, the scarring from acne can last a lifetime.


In addition to that, research has shown that persistent acne causes more than simple discomfort.  It can cause sufficient levels of psychological distress that it can make people withdrawn, and self-conscious about their appearance to the point that it begins to impact their interpersonal relationships.


Current treatment options for acne include a range of antibiotics and retinoids, but these treatments are not always effective and worse, they can often cause unappealing side effects including dry skin and irritation.


That’s precisely why Chun-Ming Huang and his team of researchers have been looking into new and better treatment alternatives.  After all, even though the condition isn’t life threatening, it impacts more than 40 million people in the US alone, and a not-insignificant percentage of those do not tolerate the current treatment options well.


Recently, Huang and his team published the results of their research in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, where they explain their process in developing a safe, effective vaccine to treat acne.


Their first step was, of course, to study acne’s root cause.  That part was easy enough and well-understood.  Acne is caused by the Propionibacterium acnes, which produces a toxin called the Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson factor, or CAMP factor for short.  It is this toxin which is largely responsible for the inflammation in acne outbreaks.


Using this fact as a starting point, the team tested a set of monoclonal antibodies against the CAMP factor, with promising results.  The antibodies have proven effective against the inflammation-inducing properties of the toxin in both a mouse model and skin cells collected from humans.


Commenting on the study, Emmanuel Contassot, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, had this to say:


“…such vaccines would address an unmet medical need….at the same time, acne immunotherapies that target P. acnes-derived factors have to be cautiously designed to avoid unwanted disturbance of the microbiome that guarantees skin homeostasis.

…whether or not CAMP factor-targeted vaccines will impact multiple P. acnes subtypes and other commensals has to be determined, but acne immunotherapy presents and interesting avenue to explore nonetheless.”


In terms of next steps, Huang and his team are steadily working toward large-scale clinical trials and FDA approval.  They admit that they’re quite some distance from that point, but the early results are beyond encouraging.


The day may soon come when we have a safe, effective treatment for acne that does not have any of the side effects current treatment options are saddled with.  Something that works for the overwhelming majority of the millions of acne suffers in the United States and around the world.


Again, this isn’t nearly as significant as cancer research or any number of other things, but it is still very good news and a most welcome development.  Bravo to Professor Huang and his team.