Researchers at Ulster University are leading a three-year research programme which hopes to find new ways of treating antibiotic resistant acne.

The chronic inflammatory skin condition acne vulgaris, which can have significant social and psychological effects when symptoms are severe, is classified by the Global Burden of Disease Study as the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide.

Widespread use of antibiotics to target the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is believed to play a central role in the development of the condition, has paved the way for the emergence of acne super-bug strains that are resistant to first line antibiotics.

Because of this, patients with severe and difficult to treat forms of the condition due to multi-drug resistant strains of the bacterium are now being referred for specialised treatment.

The study, which is funded by an £85,000 grant from the British Skin Foundation, seeks to identify patients at risk of not responding to first-line treatments and developing aggressive forms of acne, as well as develop new non-antibiotic-based treatments for the condition.

“For patients with acne, the long term use of antibiotics to treat their condition often leads to the emergence of Propionibacterium acnes strains on their skin that are highly resistant to therapy and therefore extremely difficult to eradicate,” said Ulster University’s Dr Andrew McDowell who is leading the project.

‘’To date, knowledge of the multi-antibiotic resistant strains of this bacterium associated with the severest forms of acne is poor, but this research project at Ulster University will strive to change that.”