Rachael Rettner - The bacteria that live on the skin and contribute to acne may also cause infections after surgery, including infections in the brain, researchers say.
The microbes may even spur some cells to become cancerous, said Peter Lambert, a professor of microbiology at Aston University in Birmingham, England.
While the bacterium is generally considered harmless, more attention should be paid to its role as a potential pathogen, he told MyHealthNewsDaily.
"Generally, we tend to disregard this organism, because we think it's a harmless organism. So if we see it, we don’t report it," Lambert said. "We should take more notice of this and say it could be causing infection."
However, evidence for the link between the bacteria, known as P. acnes, and disease is just emerging, Lambert said. More studies are needed to confirm it is indeed the culprit, he said. Lambert spoke about the link Jan. 12 at the Society for Applied Microbiology Winter Meeting, in London. ...
Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, live in hair follicles — the tiny pores in our skin from which hairs sprout. When these pores become blocked, the bacteria can multiply and contribute to the inflammation we call acne.
But the bacteria can also cause inflammation inside our tissues, leading to tissue damage, Lambert said.
Typically, when P. acnes shows up in an infection within the body, most physicians assume it's just a contaminant — that it was transferred from the skin to the inside of the body, perhaps during a medical procedure, but was not actually causing a disease.
"We're recognizing more recently that, in fact, there are distinct clinical syndromes that are associated with infections with P. acnes as an actual pathogen and not simply a contaminant," said Christopher Vinnard, an infectious-disease researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
For example, some studies, including a case report published by Vinnard and his colleagues, have linked the bacteria to the formation of brain abscesses after neurosurgery.
In Vinnard's report, a patient developed a brain abscess 10 years after surgery. Biopsies from the abscess showed only one type of bacteria present: P. acnes.
While it's difficult to say whether P. acnes caused the abscess, one clue was that the patient's condition improved once he was given antibiotics against the bacteria, Vinnard said.
via Acne Bacteria May Infect the Brain and Body | P. Acnes Bacteria Discovered on Medical Devices & Brain Abscess, Infections | LiveScience.