If further study confirms the link between these bacterial communities and acne, the study authors believe treatments for the condition could be further refined. “We could diagnose patients better [based on their microbiome] and predict better treatments,” says study author Noah Craft, a dermatologist of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute. In addition, natural probiotic options—treatments that support the growth of certain microorganisms—could be used to encourage beneficial bacteria whereas more sophisticated antibiotic approaches could selectively target harmful bacteria.
Much remains to be understood, however. Craft adds that it is probable their findings might help explain acne in just one in five cases. “We didn’t specify the subtype of acne in this study,” he says. Craft suspects that more study will reveal how acne vulgaris is actually several different skin diseases.
Microbiologist David Relman of Stanford University, not associated with the study, adds that the complexity of the microbiome could further contribute to the disease’s occurrence. “We have to remember that nearly all microbes spend all of their time as part of a community,” Relman says. He suggests that their “chatter” within that community can influence bacterial behavior—whether beneficial or harmful.