Acne is a source of misery for many. As many as 80% of people aged 11 to 30 suffer from it, according to the NHS.
But a cure could be on the horizon, if trials of a new vaccine prove to be successful.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have been working on a solution to end the condition, which is most commonly experienced during puberty, but is increasingly common among adults.
Eric C. Huang, the project’s lead researcher, told Allure magazine: “Acne is caused, in part, by P. acnes bacteria that are with you your whole life — and we couldn’t create a vaccine for the bacteria because, in some ways, P. acnes are good for you.”
“But we found an antibody to a toxic protein that P. acnesbacteria secrete on skin — the protein is associated with the inflammation that leads to acne.”
In other words, the vaccine is an effort to block the acne-causing effects of the bacteria, without killing the bacteria themselves, according to Allure.
The vaccine has been tested on skin biopsies collected from acne patients, and early results have been promising.
The next stage will be for researchers to trial the vaccine on patients.
“The first phase of those trials, which could take one to two years, will be underway soon,” Huang said.
Breakouts are most commonly linked to hormone changes, some of which cause grease-secreting glands to overproduce oil. But doctors are yet to identify the exact cause of the skin disease.
The NHS estimates about 5% of women and 1% of men have acne over the age of 25, with cases of acne among adults, particularly women, thought to be on the rise, according to The Telegraph.
It reported that a study last year found a 200% rise in the number of adults seeking specialist acne treatment. It also found that women were five times more likely than men to be affected by late-life acne, due to hormone-linked events, such as periods, pregnancy and contraception methods.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dr Stefanie Williams, medical director of Eudelo (European Dermatology London), called the increase in adult acne “an epidemic.”
“We have so many sufferers [in this country],” she said. “It is important to acknowledge that it is a skin disease. It is not normal and not a right of passage.”