Findings Show That a Virus May Help Combat Acne

Acne runs in my family. My grandfather had cystic acne, and both my mom and sister struggled with their skin. I was no exception. I suffered through high school with seemingly never-ending bouts of break outs of every kind of bump you can imagine. It was painful-physically and socially. I look back on my school photos and shudder (ok everyone does that, but still) wishing I could have at least one photo from a dance or in the yearbook where my skin looked decent.

virus and acne

Consequently, I went through the ringer to try and get rid of it. I did everything, from laser treatments (not pleasant, by the way) to antibiotics, to Accutane, to every topical cream on the market. As a result, I suffered sunburn, stomach aches, and horrible itching I couldn’t relieve.

After all of that I had to wonder, why? Why do we still not have a safe way to treat, and truly cure, acne? Something that doesn’t result in such nasty side effects? Well, a recent study by experts at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh may have found a solution that lies in, of all things, a virus.

Now I know what you’re thinking-“You stupido, how can a virus be a safe way to help my skin?” I thought the same thing too- but after researching it further, I have come to understand and appreciate the idea behind it.

Knowing the cause before the cure

To understand why this virus might be an effective therapy, it’s important to understand what actually causes most cases of acne. Put shortly, acne is caused by hair follicles that become blocked with sebum-an oily substance that the body makes to help keep our hair and skin from drying out. Normally harmless bacteria that lives on the skin (known as Propionibacterium acnes) then contaminates and infects the blocked follicles, which results in acne. People with chronic acne create more sebum than normal, and since P. acnes feeds on sebum, more sebum means more bacteria. Sex hormones in adolescence also result in higher productions of sebum, which is why breakouts are virtually unavoidable as teens.

How does it work?

The virus, which is known as a bacteriophage (phage, for short), is naturally built to target and kill the bacteria that is getting all up in your follicles and causing trouble.  After decoding the DNA of the phages, scientists found that it carries a gene that produces an enzyme called endosylin, which breaks down the cell walls of bacteria to destroy it. Unlike other antibiotic treatments that can wipe out good bacteria in your gut, the phages only go for the bad guys. Acne strains can develop resistance to antibiotics as well, rendering them essentially ineffective, while other treatment options can have extreme side effects.

If the word ‘virus’ scares you, by the way, take a deep breath. The phages only feed on bacteria and not on human cells, like polio or HIV does.


Acne is a painful burden to bear, and it can turn good days into bad ones in the second it takes you to look in a mirror, and this virus seems like answer we’ve all been waiting for, but it’s still a medicine in the making. Scientists are just now taking it out of the lab and testing it to see if it’s an effective therapy for acne in humans.
After years of no new acne treatment being developed, it seems like we’re on a good path. If they can get this thing sorted out before I have kids, fabulous, because I would hate to have to have them-or anyone, for that matter-go through what I did. (This is where I apologize in advance to my future children for passing on such a lame gene.)

Here’s to hoping well be catching a virus sometime soon!

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  1. Joie says:

    I had horrible skin when I was in Jr. High thru to HS. I was put on Accutane. It helped, but my lips and skin pealed horribly. From what I know now, I would try every single natural remedy there is before I ever put my child on Accutane or inject them w/a virus. Mostly, the gut is out of balance as well as the hormones. I was always on antibiotics, always sick and addicted to sugar. A terrible circle that ended up stopping when I was in my early 20’s because my body was deathly ill. I changed my diet, saw a Chiro. & ND. Took supplements. Stopped working, I had to restore my gut, cleanse my colon, build up my immune system, deal w/a low-functioning Thyroid and Adrenal exhaustion. Ultimately, I was diagnosed w/CFS. I don’t have that any longer. I do still deal w/Thyroid and Adrenal issues but I don’t have the funds to maintain taking them consistently right now. When or if, the time comes to address this issue w/child, I will do whatever I can to address the imbalance nutritionally. Thanks.

    • Claire Goodall (Everyday Roots) says:

      Hi Joie,

      I am sorry to hear about your health troubles :/ it sounds like you’ve been through the ringer with acne as well…I also had to go on Accutane (and just about everything else it seemed) and agree that if there’s any way to avoid it-do it!

      I find the virus idea interesting because-if it works like they hope it will-it would mean that people like you and I (and our children) wouldn’t have to deal with the harsh medications. It would be a safe and natural route to clearing up acne, although the word “virus” does sound a little intimidating :p

      I think how you treat your acne also depends on what causes it. While it may be a nutritional thing for one person that can be corrected by diet, someone else could just have the genes for it (which is my problem) and in the latter case could benefit from a “good virus” that targets only acne.

      Whew, sorry for the novel. Either way, I hope safer and healthier ideas for addressing skin care and acne continue to be developed!

      Take care,

  2. Annie says:

    Wow, this is REALLY interesting!! It’s so frustrating that there is no 100% guaranteed effective way to topically treat acne naturally right now.

  3. LYDIA says:


  4. joy says:

    Buy a homepathic aid that contains sulfur. You will be amazed at the results…it will clear your skin. Sulfur is a miracle cure..seriously.

  5. Dannica says:

    Hi Claire! Can I ask you? How to prevent pimples from coming out to your face? What tips will I take? And how? Thank u…

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