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14-04-2011 | Article

Long-term antibiotics for acne do not increase bacterial infection susceptibility


Free abstract

MedWire News: The long-term use of antibiotics to treat acne does not appear to increase bacterial resistance, study findings indicate.

Antibiotics used in the treatment of acne are also commonly used to treat a bacterial infection called Staphylococcus aureus, which colonizes the skin and can cause skin infections as well as more wide-spread, life-threatening infections.

This has raised concerns that people with acne using such antimicrobial agents for a long time may be more susceptible to Staphylococcus aureus infection due to the bacteria adapting and building up a resistance to such drugs.

The current findings show, however, that people with acne receiving long-term antibiotic treatment actually have a nearly 70% reduced prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus compared with acne patients not using antibiotics.

This contradicts the current dogma about the long-term use of antibiotics, the researchers report in the Archives of Dermatology.

David Margolis and colleagues, from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, USA, assessed the effects of antibiotic use in 83 patients with acne. Of these, 36 were receiving either a topical or oral antibiotic for their acne.

In all, 43% of the patients were colonized with Staphylococcus aureus and 6% with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.

The participants who were using oral antibiotics were a significant 74% less likely to be colonized with Staphylococcus aureus than participants not using oral antibiotics, while the likelihood of Staphylococcus aureus colonization was reduced a significant 70% in those taking topical antibiotics.

"Contrary to what might have been expected... at no time was the rate of colonization with Staphylococcus aureus greater in patients who were receiving antibiotic therapy than in those who were not receiving antibiotic therapy," says the team

The researchers also note that fewer than 10% of samples of Staphylococcus aureus were resistant to tetracyclines, the most commonly used antibiotic for the treatment of acne.

Resistance to other antibiotics for acne was higher, but it was common to both those using and not using antibiotics to treat their condition.

The current research findings contradict previous ideologies that "long-term prescribing of antibiotics causes increased prevalence of and resistance to Staphylococcus aureus," the researchers conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper