(HealthDay News) – Specific strains of the skin commensal Propionibacterium acnes are associated with acne and with healthy skin, according to a study published online Feb. 28 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Sorel Fitz-Gibbon, PhD, from the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues compared the skin microbiome at the strain and genome level of P. acnes by sampling the pilosebaceous units on the noses of 49 patients with acne and 52 healthy individuals.

In metagenomic analyses, the researchers found that although the relative abundances of P. acnes were similar there were significant differences in the strain population structure. Specific strains were highly correlated with acne, and distinct strains were enriched in the skin of healthy individuals. Potential genetic determinants of various P. acnes strains were identified by sequencing 66 previously unreported strains and comparing 71 P. acnes genomes. DNA sequences and bacterial immune elements may be involved in the virulence of certain strains.

“Our metagenomic approach in revealing the association of P. acnes strains with the disease or health is, to our knowledge, previously unreported, and is more powerful than previous studies using traditional methods,” the authors write. “Ultimately, these studies could lead to targeted therapeutics to restore natural commensal population structures, and could help determine whether therapeutic modulations of the microbiota can return the host to a state of health.”

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