A Vaccine to Cure Acne?

A Vaccine to Cure Acne?
girl with acne and white maskStory Highlights
  • Acne, which affects up to 50 million people in the U.S. annually, is the primary reason people seek the advice of a dermatologist.
  • The role of inflammation in the pathology of acne has been confirmed, with some scientists linking it to an inflammatory reaction to Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson factor, a toxic byproduct of the common skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes.
  • Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have signed a contract with Sanofi Pasteur to develop a vaccine they say will prevent and cure acne.

Acne, one of the more universal causes of teenage angst, affects many adults as well. A chronic inflammatory disease condition,1 the role of inflammation in the pathology of acne has been confirmed but there are questions about exactly how and why some people develop severe types of acne and others do not.2

Some researchers believe the chronic inflammatory skin condition may be caused by an overactive inflammatory response to Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), a type of bacteria that is normally present on everyone’s skin, and that an “immunological approach to acne prevention and treatment” in the form of a vaccine can offer the cure.3

Acne may be experienced by as many as 85 percent of all people at some point in their life. Affecting up to 50 million people in the United States every year, acne is the number one condition treated by dermatologists.4 It is estimated that treating acne in the U.S. alone is a $3 billion industry. 5

All Causes and Mechanisms for Acne Not Known

Although all the causes and biological mechanisms for development of acne are not known, over the years, researchers have suggested a number of factors are associated with an increased risk of developing acne, such as heredity, hormonal changes, skin stressors like lotions or oils, and physical pressure on or irritation of the skin from things like telephones or backpacks.6 Studies also have suggested a link between a diet high in dairy and sugar and an increased risk of developing acne.7

Other studies have provided evidence that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in acne8 and that low dose vitamin A therapy can lessen its severity.9 

P. acnes is an anaerobic bacterium that feeds on the sebum at the base of hair follicles. Overgrowth of the bacteria may cause one of two immune system reactions that can lead to acne: In the first mechanism, a hypersensitive immune response floods the area with inflammatory cytokines, releasing free radicals and digestive enzymes at the source of the bacteria. The resulting inflammation often causes “collateral damage” to surrounding tissue; the second action may reflect inadequate bacterial killing abilities.10

P. acnes itself is not the culprit in acne and actually has a number of beneficial attributes to the body, including its capability for provoking a powerful nonspecific immune system reaction. In fact, it has been suggested that P. acnes might historically have contributed to natural protection against such life-threatening diseases as malaria and plague.11

Sanofi Pasteur Collaborates with University of California to Develop Acne Vaccine

In 2011, Sanofi Pasteur announced that the corporation had signed an exclusive research and development contract with the University of California to create an acne vaccine “targeting the specific neutralization of Proppionibacterium acnes factors in inflammation.”12

The group of scientists developing the acne vaccine at the University of California, San Diego are led by Professor Eric Huang. They believe that the inflammatory response responsible for the chain of events leading to acne are triggered when the bacterium releases a toxin known as the secretory Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson (CAMP) factor, which the body is not able to neutralize by itself.

An Acne Vaccine for School Kids

These researchers have developed two types of vaccines designed to neutralize the CAMP factor, which drives the overgrowth process leading to acne, without killing the bacteria itself.13 14 The first vaccine is a traditional preventive vaccine and is planned for injection at the elementary school level. The second is a so-called “therapeutic vaccine,” designed for topical application in someone who has already developed acne.

In a recent article in Business Insider, Professor Huang talked about how his team was creating a vaccine that blocks the ability of the bacteria to cause acne without killing the bacteria:

Acne is caused, in part, by P. acnes bacteria that are with you your whole life—and we couldn’t create a vaccine for the bacteria because, in some ways, P. acnes are good for you. But we found an antibody to a toxic protein that P. acnes bacteria secrete on skin—the protein is associated with the inflammation that leads to acne.15

According to Huang, the experimental vaccine has been tested on skin biopsies taken from patients with acne and human clinical trials will be underway soon and could take one to two years.15


1 Tuchayi SM, Makrantonaki E et al. Acne Vulgaris. Nature Reviews Disease Primers Sept. 17, 2015.
2 Tanghetti EA. The Role of Inflammation in the Pathology of Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 2013; 6(9): 27-35.  
3 MacKenzie D. In development: A vaccine for acne. New Scientist Sept. 23, 2011.
4 Acne. American Academy of Dermatology. C 2017.
5 Park A. Why Does Acne Still Exist? The Atlantic June 5, 2013.
6 Mayo Staff. Diseases and Conditions: Acne. The Mayo Clinic Jan. 20, 2015.
 CA, et al. High School Dietary Diet Intake and Teenage Acne. J Am Acad Dermatol February,2005.
8 Kim SK, Ha JM et al. Comparison of Vitamin D Levels in Patients with and without Acne: A Case-Controlled Study Combined with a Randomized Controlled Trial. PloS One 2016; 11(8).
9 Kotori MG. Low-dose Vitamin “A” Tablets–treatment for Acne Vulgaris. Med Arch 2015; 69(1): 28-30.
10 What Is Propionibacterium acnes? Science of Acne.
Bhatia A et al. Propionibacterium Acnes and Chronic Disease. National Academy of Sciences, 2004.
Sanofi Pasteur Acquires Exclusive, Worldwide License for Acne Vaccine and Treatments. Sanofi Pasteur Press Release Sept. 26, 2011.
Kaur J. UCSD Professor Develops Vaccine for Acne. NBC News Apr. 21, 2017.
14 Huang Lab. Anti-Acne Vaccine Project. UC San Diego, Department of Dermatology.
15 Fitzmaurice R. University of California researchers are trialling a vaccine that could be a game-changer for anyone with acne. Business Insider Apr. 7, 2017.

11 Responses to "A Vaccine to Cure Acne?"

  1. Rita Brosnan   May 1, 2017 at 2:24 am

    Don’t you think vaccines have caused enough damage to our children? Vaccines are the reason so many children have inflammatory conditions such as bowel disease. Leave our kids alone!!!Acne doesn’t kill! Vaccines do!!!!!!!!

  2. Colorado   May 1, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Too bad we can’t eliminate these medical cartels as easy as we might simply pop a zit. I propose a vaccine tailored to cause unethical greedy people whom would deny American citizens their civil rights, to lose their ability to type, speak, and work in the medical industry. Can we get some instant teeth vaccine for the ethics oversight guys?

  3. C   May 1, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Instead of vaccines, how about using some common sense and go back to the foundations of health i.e. nutrition. Often times, acne is a result of a congested liver from the cheap processed vegetable oils kids so often eat in the form of fast food and processed food. Since this doesn’t make money, it’s not a viable option.

    The disappointing thing is these greedy scientists are hoping to make millions with their vaccines and probably already know nutrition would be the first thing to do, but hey, why not make millions injecting chemicals to hopefully get rid of children’s non-threatening acne, where the vaccines could very well could kill them, maim them, or prime them for chronic diseases down the road? Sadly, too many people have sold their soul to devil.

  4. Donna Powers   May 1, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Homeopathy has already developed a nosode that when the symptoms of the patient agree with the symptoms of the Propion remedy, acne and rosacea can support the body’s ability to self-heal.
    Nutrition is key too for any body but energetic homeopathic support can heal at a deep level where the changes we want to make can be supported.
    See a homeopath. Whether the Propion nosode is needed or another well selected remedy, healing can happen…and not through a vaccine.

  5. Lisa   May 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    No, no, no and no again. Of course acne is inflammatory in nature just as ANY skin disruption (ingrown hair for example) causes an inflammatory response when damaged. Acne of all types is a genetic condition caused by poor cell turnover and excess sebum production. The bacteria in question is part of natural skin flora. Excessive carbohydrates likely exacerbate all types of acne since these bacteria feeds on glucose, but are certainly not a cause. Congested liver? Nutrition? Dairy consumption has been poorly correlated to acne. Saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat have also been poorly correlated and rely on erroneous ideas of how those fats translate in the body. We can discuss the effects of nutrition on skin health but blaming environmental factors in this case is like blaming shampoo and diet for naturally thin hair. The idea that every unsightly problem can be cured with either a lifestyle change or a medication merely feeds the consumer market. I can tell you from an educated standpoint that these studies are as bogus as most health studies are (oh yes, they are! I beg you to actually read them and keep reading) and this is why the outcomes are not agreed upon and are typically not repeatable.
    The naturopathic community has really confused the issue by talking about eliminating “toxins” through the skin (acne) and selling “detox” products, hence the “congested liver” comment above. Sorry folks, the body doesn’t work this way and this is not what skin does. I’ve seen heroin and meth addicts that have better skin than some very health conscientious folks. Sometimes it really just is the luck of the draw and there are a few tricks to improve cell turnover and decrease cystic acne, in particular. Unfortunately if you are prone to poor cell turnover and oily skin, eating less diary and fat and getting vaccinated won’t help you and I wouldn’t suggest paying mind to any of it, though dairy is certainly not necessary and we can start a discussion of this elsewhere since the tolerance of cow milk proteins and increased lactase enzyme activity is also a genetic adaptation and most do not seem to understand this either….

    • Bo Yang   August 14, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      I agree with you on several points, but I think diet does have a correlation to acne. Obviously, not to the same amount for every person, but it’s about varying degrees.

      Genetics do play a role, too. This is why diet varies like you said. However, certain foods trigger hormonal cascades, insulin responses and problematic inflammation. The genetics determines the amount and to what degree.

      While scientific studies can be corrupted or problematic at best, I do feel the majority (at least the one’s without a fiduciary stake, which is the vast majority) are credible. I’m well aware of the replication crisis in medical science, but it’s hard to discount entire series of studies that are pointing in a similar direction, albeit from a different origin or starting point.

  6. San Francisco   May 2, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Good grief….they will probably make this a mandatory vaccine!

  7. Sam   May 13, 2017 at 10:44 am

    The is CAMP factor ‘toxin’ can be produced by strains of P. acnes that are not associated with acne. It may therefore be important for normal survival by the bacteria. I would be very worried that a vaccine targeting this protein would also effect strains of P. acnes associated with skin health!

  8. carolinerh   May 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    In Oriental Medicine the heart and lung connect to the skin. Acne is considered a “heat” condition of blood. What bothers me is that Western Medicine is saying it is a hormonal condition, when it is not. Diet does have a lot to do with the condition and especially today when most people are eating so many wrong or processed or nutrient-deficient foods depriving the body of the nutrition it needs to be healthy both inside and outside. I know one of my brothers loved his 1/2 gallon of milk every day and had horrible acne for most of his life. I have never liked dairy and at my age (which is far from young), I have great skin and look many years younger than I am. Too much sugar and wheat are also causative factors, but for many these are addictive items. I do not recommend vaccines to my friends or patients, EVER, as way too many chemicals that the body cannot process and hence they lead to ill health in many ways. To think that babies/infants/toddlers are now required to take 69 vaccinations is absurd and causing so much ill health and strange diseases due to the overload of truly untested chemicals. I have even seen the flu shot a leading causation of dementia!

  9. Diana   August 6, 2017 at 9:03 am

    People commenting against this vaccine pushing the *all natural* story clearly haven’t sufferd from painful acne…and when i say painful I mostly refer to the emotional side of this disease (even though there s also physical pain involved) or they cured it somehow.Of course this vaccine shouldn’t be mandatory for kids.. but for the persons that are suffering from acne for years (and tried everything including diet and supplements) this will be a blessing if it really works.

    • ROBERTO FERRARI   August 22, 2017 at 9:35 pm



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.