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Drug Combo Fights Acne-Causing Bacteria

Drug Combo Fights Acne-Causing Bacteria

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

July 3, 2002 -- Fighting the bacteria that cause acne might take the one-two punch of a gel that combines a quick-acting acne medication with the staying power of an antibiotic. A new study shows the combination gel reduced levels of the bacteria by 91% within 24 hours of use and virtually eliminated the bacteria after 2 weeks.

Researchers say it's the first time such a significant reduction in the acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes) has been found within 24 hours of treatment.

"These results demonstrate that the combination therapy produces rapid and clinically relevant reductions in the P. acnes that are significantly greater than those produced by single agent therapy," says study author James J. Leyden, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, in a news release.

The study appears in the June issue of the dermatology journal Cutis.

Acne is the most commonly diagnosed skin disorder in the U.S. and is most common in teenagers. According to researchers, more than 40% of adolescents have acne severe enough by their mid-teens to require medical treatment from a doctor.

Antibiotics have typically been used to treat many acne patients by inhibiting the growth of acne-causing bacteria. But there is a growing concern that prolonged antibiotic use has led to the growth of antibiotic-resistant organisms. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the antibiotic treatment against acne, but also increases the risk of infection by other disease-carrying germs and viruses.

That has prompted researchers to look for combination treatments that have complimentary effects to shorten the necessary treatment time. In this study, 60 healthy volunteers who were free of acne, but had high levels of the P. acnes bacteria, tested a gel that contained either a combination of the antibiotic clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide (sold commercially as BenzaClin), the antibiotic alone, or a placebo.

Those who received the combination therapy had a 91% reduction in the bacteria after 24 hours and 99.9% reduction after two weeks of treatment. The patients who used the antibiotic alone had a 31% initial reduction and 77% reduction after two weeks. Levels of the bacteria did not change among those who used the placebo.

But researchers say BenzaClin has yet not been studied in trials to see how significant this bacteria-reducing effect is in actually treating acne and preventing breakouts.

The drug is available by prescription only, and side effects include dry skin, itching, peeling, and sunburn. The antibiotic in BenzaClin, clindamycin, may also cause diarrhea.

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