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Will UC San Diego’s New Acne Vaccine Work?

On the heels of the University of California San Diego’s potential acne vaccine announcement, dermatologists are discussing if a one-size-fits all treatment for acne could actually exist.

The new vaccination targets P.acnes, a bacteria in our skin’s microbiome that contributes to the inflammation from acne. Emmanuel Contassot, PhD, explains in an interview with The Atlantic that although eliminating P. acnes would be a safer alternative than chemical methods, the bacteria consists of a variety of strains and not all are associated with acne and some are good for the skin. If the vaccine wipes out those beneficial strains, then the treatment “might worsen patients’ condition by disturbing skin integrity.”

Other dermatologists argue that bacteria isn’t acne’s only culprit — hormones, genetics, diet, and medications also come into play. For hormonal-related acne, physicians often see success by prescribing birth control or spironolactone. Some acne cases arise from gastrointestinal problems, and in those instances, a dermatologist might recommend a probiotic or a change in diet to curb acne.

Despite the debatable validity of the new vaccine, overall dermatologists are excited about its potential. “We haven’t had a novel treatment for acne in a long time,” said Carlos Charles, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College. “As dermatologists and patients alike, we’re all a little bit tired of what we have.”

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