Research carried out at the National University of Ireland has concluded that rosacea – a condition that is estimated to affect 3 percent of the global population – is likely triggered by bacteria that lives within tiny mites residing in the skin.
Traditionally treatments for the condition have been both oral and topical, and more recently with lasers. But the new discovery could help isolate any number of new treatments, which could also include over-the-counter topical products.
Research identifies bacteria living within skin mites
The research, which has been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Microbiology, identifies the mite species as Demodex Folliculorum, which is worm-shaped and lives in the pilosebaceous unit that surrounds the hair follicles of the face.
"The bacteria live in the digestive tracts of Demodex mites found on the face, in a mutually beneficial relationship. When the mites die, the bacteria are released and leak into surrounding skin tissues - triggering tissue degradation and inflammation," said Dr Kevin Kavanagh, who headed up the study.
The mite has been found to increase in number with and associated skin damage, and has been found to be most common amongst fair-skinned women in the 30 to 50 age group.
Higher level of mites in rosacea sufferers
Although these mites are part of a healthy skin function, the research has identified that in rosacea sufferers there is a higher level of these mites present in the skin.
Further to this discovery, it has also been identified that the bacterium Bacillus oleronius was located in the mite and found to produce molecules provoking an immune reaction in rosacea patients that in turn exacerbates the associated rash.
The research points to other studies that have shown sufferers react to the molecules produced by this bacterium, suggesting it is a likely trigger for the condition. Further to this, the research also links the fact that the bacterium is sensitive to the antibiotics traditionally used to treat the condition.
Targeting the mites or the bacteria?
"Once the numbers of mites increase, so does the number of bacteria, making rosacea more likely to occur. Targeting these bacteria may be a useful way of treating and preventing this condition," said Dr Kavanagh.
"Alternatively we could look at controlling the population of Demodex mites in the face. Some pharmaceutical companies are already developing therapies to do this, which represents a novel way of preventing and reversing rosacea, which can be painful and embarrassing for many people."
Further research is likely to concentrate on whether targeting the mites or the bacteria is likely to result on the most efficient and effective treatment.