Study suggests antibiotics shouldn’t be used to treat acne
31st July 2015
What is acne?
Acne is caused when small holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked. Sebaceous glands lubricate the hair and the skin to stop it drying out. They do this by producing an oily substance called sebum. When the gland produces too much sebum, it causes acne as the excess oil mixes with dead skin cells and both substances form a plug in the follicle.
Antibiotic therapy and its dangers
Antibiotic therapy has been used for over forty years to treat both mild and severe acne conditions. Recently it was discovered that patients with severe acne could grow resistant to the therapy leading to untreatable acne in the future.
Along with the risk of worsening the condition, antibiotics weaken the immune system, making patients more prone to health problems including upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) or urinary tract infections. This was discovered in a study of 118,496 individuals with acne (age range, 15-35 years) who were identified in the General Practice Research Database, 71.7% received a topical or oral antibiotic for treatment of their acne and 28.3% did not.
A year into the study, it was found that over 15% of patients with acne had at least 1 URTI and they were 2.15 times more likely to develop URTI than patients who were not receiving antibiotic treatment.
Upper respiratory tract infections are illnesses caused by an acute infection, which involves the upper respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx. This commonly includes tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, and the common cold. In general, about 10% of URTIs are caused by a bacterial source.
However, the study suggests that almost 35% of patients with acne who were receiving antibiotic therapy and who had no URTI symptoms, had group A streptococci in their upper airway and that nearly 85% of these strains were resistant to tetracyclines, which are antibiotics that fight bacteria in the body.
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