An acne vaccine sounds too good to be true. One jab, and no more aggressive pimples making your face look like a pizza and damaging your self esteem.
But researchers just got one step closer to that goal, discovering that an inflammation-triggering toxin called CAMP can be decreased by applying very specific antibodies – in mice at least.
Actually turning those antibodies into a human vaccine will be complicated, but at least now we have an idea of what could work.
That's a big step forward, because acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a frustratingly complex condition.
It's caused mostly by the bacterium Cutibacterium acnes. But this type of bacteria isn't always a bad guy. Most of the time it just sits on your skin, minding its own business.
Scientists are only just beginning to understand why the bacteria triggers acne in some people and not others, but it's become clear that using antibiotics on the skin not only often doesn't work, and also comes with side effects.
"Current treatment options are often not effective or tolerable for many of the 85 percent of adolescents and more than 40 million adults in the United States who suffer from this multi-factorial cutaneous inflammatory condition," explains one of the team, Chun-Ming Huang, from the Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Diego.
"New, safe, and efficient therapies are sorely needed."
But researchers might have finally found a way around it. They've been working on an acne vaccine for a few years now, and just published their results on early tests in mice at the end of June.
Past research had discovered that C. acnes secretes a toxin called Christie-Atkins-Munch-Petersen (CAMP) factor.
What the team found was that CAMP factor was causing an inflammation similar to acne in mice. And when the team mutated the CAMP factor in the mice's bacteria to be non-functional, the inflammation was significantly reduced.
They then tested a vaccine of CAMP 2 factor antibodies, which decreased the inflammatory response, and therefore the acne.
The next step will be to see if this works in humans.
"Once validated by a large-scale clinical trial, the potential impact of our findings is huge for the hundreds of millions of individuals suffering from acne vulgaris," said Huang.
There's no human vaccine yet, so don't get too excited. The team will still need to test any unintended side effects from the vaccine, and then confirm it works in human patients.
But, if all goes to plan, it's amazing to imagine a world with a vaccine to make acne a thing of the past.
The research was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.