Prebiotics could help reduce acne infections

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bacteria

Topical application of a prebiotic could be a gentler way to attack acne bacteria, according to scientists based in Glasgow, UK.

A prebiotic can be thought of as the food for a probiotic; it selectively supports the growth of these good bacteria.

The Glasgow research team is investigating the effects of the prebiotic konjac glucomannan hydrolysates (GMH) on the growth of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, ​via its effect on the skin’s good bacteria (probiotics) of the lactic acid group.

According to Professor Richard Tester, co-founder of university spin-off company Glycologic which is behind the research, the prebiotic is designed to help skin bacteria return to their natural equilibrium and lessen the hold that the acne bacterium​has on the skin of acne sufferers.

Enhance good bacteria at the expense of bad

This is a very different approach to traditional anti-bacterial acne treatments that use agents such as hydrogen peroxide, he told

“With the prebiotic we are trying to enhance the good skin bacteria at the expense of the bad, we are trying to revive the natural probiotics in the skin which may have taken a bit of a hammering. Hydrogen peroxide is an anti-bacterial agent that kills everything” ​he said.

In addition to its gentler action on the skin, the fact that the GMH is a body friendly carbohydrate rather than a drug product means that it could be formulated into both over the counter and prescription products.

The cause of acne is not entirely understood, but factors such as excess sebum production and the hypercolonization of the follicles by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes​ are thought to play a major role.

Therefore, inhibiting the growth of the Propionibacterium acnes​ forms the basis of many anti-acne treatments.

Glycologic’s preliminary in vitro​ results were published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, and results from in vivo​ tests, which have been concluded, will be published within the next few months.

Although details of the human clinical trials are currently confidential, Tester said the in vivo​ results were of exceptional interest and the group is currently trying to commercialise the technology.

Details of the in vitro ​study can be found in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
​Issue 32, pages 139-142
Effect of konjac glucomannan hydrolysates and probiotics on the growth of the skin bacterium ​Propionibacterium acnes in vitro
​F. H. Al-Ghazzewi and R. F. Tester

Related topics Formulation & Science

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