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Propionibacterium acnes
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Bacteria
Phylum: Actinobacteria
Order: Actinomycetales
Family: Propionibacteriaceae
Genus: Propionibacterium
Species: P. acnes
Binomial name
Propionibacterium acnes
(Gilchrist 1900)
Douglas & Gunter 1946

Propionibacterium acnes is a relatively slow growing, typically aerotolerant anaerobic gram positive bacterium that is linked to the skin condition acne; it can also cause chronic blepharitis and endophthalmitis, the latter particularly following intraocular surgery. The genome of the bacterium has been sequenced and a study has shown several genes that can generate enzymes for degrading skin and proteins that may be immunogenic (activate the immune system).

This bacteria is largely commensal and part of the skin flora present on most people's skin; and lives on fatty acids in the sebaceous glands on sebum secreted by pores. It may also be found throughout the gastrointestinal tract in humans and many other animals. It is named after its ability to generate propionic acid.


Role in disease

When a pore is blocked this anaerobic bacterium overgrows and secretes chemicals that break down the wall of the pore, spilling bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus into the skin, and forming an acne lesion (folliculitis). It has also been found in corneal ulcers, and on very few occasions damaging heart valves leading to endocarditis, and infections of joints (septic arthritis) have been reported. Furthermore, Propionibacterium have been found in ventriculostomy insertion sites, and areas subcutaneous to suture sites in patients that have undergone craniotomy.

Antibiotic sensitivity

P. acnes can be killed by benzoyl peroxide, tetracycline group and other antibiotics, and many antibacterial preparations, including clove oil [1]. Tetracycline-resistant P. acnes is now quite common. Clindamycin is also frequently used. New facts show that P. acnes is sensitive to some macrolides such as azithromycin, which has a wide spectrum of action. It is normally prescribed 500 mg by mouth, three times weekly for 4 to 6 weeks, but may have post-antibiotic effects by remaining concentrated in lung tissue for approximately 5 days after treatment stops. Another antibiotic used against P. acnes is nadifloxacin of the fluoroquinolone class, such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin and levofloxacin. It has action against P. acnes and some other microorganisms that also take part of the poly-infection.

Phage sensitivity

P. acnes has known phages that can attack it, and these can be used to type it. Proposals exist to employ lytic phages for therapeutic purposes for acne vulgaris.


P. acnes glows orange when exposed to Wood's light[2]— believed to be due to the presence of endogenous porphyrins. The bacterium is killed by ultraviolet light. P. acnes is also especially sensitive to light in the 405–420 nm (near the ultraviolet) range due to an endogenic porphyrin–coporphyrin III. A total irradiance of 320 J/cm² is found to inactivate this bacteria in vitro.[3] This fact is used in phototherapy. Its photosensitivity can be enhanced by pretreatment with aminolevulinic acid which boosts production of this chemical, although this causes significant side-effects in humans.



  1. ^ Fu, YJ; Chen, LY; Zu, YG et al., The Antibacterial Activity of Clove Essential Oil Against Propionibacterium acnes and its Mechanism of Action Arch Dermatol 2009 Jan; 145(1):86-88
  2. ^
  3. ^ Papageorgiou P, Katsambas A, Chu A (May 2000). "Phototherapy with blue (415 nm) and red (660 nm) light in the treatment of acne vulgaris". Br. J. Dermatol. 142 (5): 973–8. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2000.03481.x. PMID 10809858.  

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Superregnum: Bacteria
Regnum: Bacteria
Phylum: Actinobacteria
Classis: Actinobacteria
Subclassis: Actinobacteridae
Ordo: Actinomycetales
Subordo: Propionibacterineae
Familia: Propionibacteriaceae
Genus: Propionibacterium
Species: Propionibacterium acnes
Strain: Propionibacterium acnes KPA171202 - Propionibacterium acnes SK137 -



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