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Is There A Vaccine For Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

About 50 million Americans suffer from acne1. For decades, doctors and scientists have been searching for the cure to acne without true success. They know that acne-causing bacteria plays a role, but so do hormones, environmental conditions, hygiene and more. Yet, no one has ever successfully pinpointed the cause of acne to find the perfect cure. Recently, however, researchers from the University of California in San Diego2 may be onto a revolutionary vaccine that could change the acne dilemma forever.

Acne vaccine
Scientists are working for vaccine as a potential medicine in treating acne.

What You Need To Know About the Vaccine

For years, scientists struggled with finding a way to cure acne because they couldn’t totally get rid of P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. It’s a bacterium us humans will carry with us for the duration of our lives and in some ways, it’s really good for us. The vaccine is said to neutralize the toxin secreted from the p. acnes3 that creates inflammation leading to breakouts. In layman’s terms, P. acnes bacteria is actually good for you, but it secretes a toxic protein that causes acne4. The good news is that a team of researchers has found an antibody to that specific toxin, and thus the development of a vaccine may be possible.

Clinical trials are being done and the is working on two versions of the treatment. One is a preventative injection and the other is a therapeutic cream to treat lesions that are already active. The preventative vaccine can be used by patients as young as elementary school age. However, this project has been in the works for the past five years, and with the vaccine just beginning its clinical trial stages, we may not see the vaccine available to the public until after the year 2020. Until then, it looks like we may have to stick to our conventional5 acne treatments or sign up to be a volunteer for the vaccine trials.


  1. White G.M. Recent findings in the epidemiologic evidence, classification, and subtypes of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1998;29(2 Pt 3 ):S34-S37.
  2. Kao M., Huang C.M. Acne vaccines targeting Propionibacterium acnes. Giornale italiano di dermatologia e venereologia. 2009;144(6):639-43.
  3. Keshari S., Kumar M., Balasubramaniam A., Chang T.W., Tong Y., Huang C.M. Prospects of acne vaccines targeting secreted virulence factors of Cutibacterium acnes. Expert Review of Vaccines. 2019;18(5):433-437.
  4. Wang Y., Hata T.R., Tong Y.L., Kao M.S., Zouboulis C.C, Gallo R.L., Huang C.M. The anti-inflammatory activities of Propionibacterium acnes CAMP factor-targeted acne vaccine. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2018;138(11):2355-2364.
  5. Kraft J., Freiman, A. Management of acne. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2011;183(7):E430-E435.
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