Propionibacterium acnes

Propionibacterium acnes / Matthias Mörgelin, Lund University

Our bodies play host to billions of bacteria, both inside and out, and there is a growing body of evidence to show how beneficial these microscopic lodgers can be. A new study from the University of Lund in Sweden shows that common bacteria on human skin could protect us from the reactive oxygen species thought to contribute to several skin diseases. 

Called Propionibacterium acnes, the bacterium “was first discovered on a patient with severe acne,” explains Rolf Lood at the Department of Clinical Sciences in Lund. “Whether it causes acne is uncertain – it may have been present merely because it is so common”

He has discovered that the “acne bacterium” secretes a protein called RoxP. This protein protects against what is known as oxidative stress, a condition in which reactive oxygen species damage cells. A common cause of oxidative stress on the skin is UV radiation from the sun.

“This protein is important for the bacterium’s very survival on our skin. The bacterium improves its living environment by secreting RoxP, but in doing so it also benefits us”, explains Rolf Lood.

Oxidative stress is considered to be a contributing factor in several skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and skin cancer.

Since Propionibacterium acnes is so common, it is present in both healthy individuals and people with skin diseases. According to Rolf Lood, however, people have different amounts of the bacterium on their skin, and it can also produce more or less of the protective protein RoxP.

More on these topics