Turkish Journal of Dermatology

: 2019  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 57--59

Propionibacterium acnes (Cutibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: The latest updates of antimicrobial activity

Kaya Suer1, Meryem Güvenir2,  
1 Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Near East University, Nicosia, Cyprus
2 Department of Microbiology, Vocational School of Health Services, Near East University, Nicosia, Cyprus

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Meryem Güvenir
Department of Microbiology, Vocational School of Health Services, Near East University, Nicosia


Propionibacterium acnes is commonly recognized for its acne pathogenesis. P. acnes produces chemotactic substances and activates the complement system. Resistant P. acnes strains were explained more than 40 years ago. For that reason, new antimicrobial agents for the topical treatment of skin infections have been researched, and it has been determined that plant extracts may be an alternative treatment for acne. In this review, antimicrobial studies of P. acnes have been reviewed.

How to cite this article:
Suer K, Güvenir M. Propionibacterium acnes (Cutibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: The latest updates of antimicrobial activity.Turk J Dermatol 2019;13:57-59

How to cite this URL:
Suer K, Güvenir M. Propionibacterium acnes (Cutibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: The latest updates of antimicrobial activity. Turk J Dermatol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Jan 28 ];13:57-59
Available from: https://www.tjdonline.org/text.asp?2019/13/2/57/267833

Full Text


The microbial community is mostly formed of bacteria, which include Corynebacteria, Propionibacterium and Staphylocooci.[1] P.acnes is a gram-positive bacteria and the anaerobic form exists on the surface of the human skin.[2] P.acnes colonises the sebaceous glands and the hair follicles of the human skin.[3] If the Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) becomes predominant in the sebaceous region, this prevents the colonisation of other harmful microorganisms.[4],[5] Also, it can play an important role in acne vulgaris.[6] The pathogenesis of acne vulgaris is based on multiple factors, such as increased sebum production, P. acnes proliferation and inflammation.[7]

The main groups of therapeutic drugs are topical and systemic retinoids, antimicrobial agents, and systemic hormonal drugs.[8] Clindamycin, tetracyclines, erythromycin, metronidazole, nadifloxacin, and dapsone are used for anti-Propionibacterium acnes therapy.[9] A significant problem in the treatment is bacterial resistance. Currently, new retinoids are being used with antibiotics to decrease the risk of bacterial resistance.[7] Phytotherapy may be an alternative for acne treatment due to its low side effects, usage in local areas, and low costs.[10]

 New Data on Propionibacterium Acnestaxonomy

P. acnes was first isolated from patients with chronic skin diseases called “acne vulgaris.”[11] The genus Propionibacterium, which was described by Orla-Jensen, belongs to the phylum of Actinobacteria and to the Propionibacteriales group.[12],[13],[14] The cutaneous group consists of P. acnes, Propionibacterium avidum, and Propionibacterium granulosum.[12]

High-resolution core genome studies have reported the new genus of Cutibacterium gen. nov. These specific genes were indicated in these cutaneous species; however, others disappeared by deletions of cutaneous Propionibacterium on the human skin. As a result of the 16S rRNA gene sequences, DNA G + C content, genome size, and gene content, P. acnes was renamed as Cutibacterium acnes.[15] C. acnes is predominant in the microbiota of pilosebaceous follicles of acne patients as opposed to unaffected skin.[16] As a result of genomic analysis, cutaneous Propionibacterium has now been changed to the new bacterial genus Cutibacterium. The names used for bacteria species are C. acnes, Cutibacterium avidum, Cutibacterium granulosum, Cutibacterium namnetense, and Cutibacterium humerusii.[17]

 Cutibacterium Acnes feedback to Antibiotics

Systemic and topical antibiotics have been used for acne treatments.[18] The use of antibiotics may induce the spread of antibiotic resistance.[19]

Propionibacterium species are intrinsically resistant to metronidazole, tinidazole and ornidazole, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides, and mupirocin. On the other hand, C. acnes is susceptible to many antimicrobials. However, studies have reported that C. acnes has high rates of resistance to erythromycin and clindamycin.[18],[20],[21]

Bacterial biofilms also play an important role in antibiotic resistance and decrease the susceptibility to antibiotherapy.[16] The ability of biofilm formation of C. acnes was reported in 2007.[22] Studies have indicated that the development of C. acnes biofilms was higher in patients with acne than normal patients.[23]

 In Vitro Antimicrobial Effects of Natural Materials Against Propionibacterium Acnes

Resistant P. acnes strains were explained more than 40 years ago.[19] For that reason, new antimicrobial agents for the topical treatment of skin infections were researched, and it was found that plant extracts may be an alternative treatment for acne.[24] Weber et al. reported that hop extract has a high antimicrobial activity against P. acnes (minimum inhibitory concentration [MIC] of 3.1 μg/mL).[25] Furthermore, studies indicate that herbal ball extract with Kalmegh, rosmarinic acid, Centella asiatica extract, and Rosa damascena methanolic extract had antimicrobial activity against P. acnes.[8],[10],[24],[26] It has been shown that Boswellia serrata extract is effective at low concentrations against P. acnes (MIC: 1 μg/mL).[27] Only a limited number of studies have studied the anti-P. acnes activities of herbal tea extracts. In terms of antimicrobial activity against P. acnes, duzhong extract showed the highest level, yerba mate extract showed a moderate level, and rose extract showed the least (Tsai et al., 2010). Eilami et al. found that hydroxytyrosol has an antibacterial effect against P. acnes.[28] Angelica anomala demonstrated effective activity against P. acnes.[29] Yamaguchi et al. reported that Humulus lupulus, which contains xanthohumol and lupulones, showed very effective inhibitory activity against P. acnes.[30]


Recently, cosmeceuticals and nutraceuticals are areas that are significantly increasing in popularity. The development of new botanical extracts and compounds against P. acnes has considerable potential.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Grice EA, Kong HH, Conlan S, Deming CB, Davis J, Young AC, et al. Topographical and temporal diversity of the human skin microbiome. Science 2009;324:1190-2.
2Michael TM. Brock: Biology of Microorganisms. 13th ed. 2012; Appendix 2: 12.
3Otberg N, Richter H, Schaefer H, Blume-Peytavi U, Sterry W, Lademann J, et al. Variations of hair follicle size and distribution in different body sites. J Invest Dermatol 2004;122:14-9.
4Szabó K, Erdei L, Bolla BS, Tax G, Bíró T, Kemény L, et al. Factors shaping the composition of the cutaneous microbiota. Br J Dermatol 2017;176:344-51.
5Christensen GJ, Brüggemann H. Bacterial skin commensals and their role as host guardians. Benef Microbes 2014;5:201-15.
6Güvenir M, Kaptanoglu A, Süer K. The importance of Propionibacterium acnes place in microbiology world. Turk J Dermatol 2018;12:183-6.
7Leyden JJ. A review of the use of combination therapies for the treatment of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;49:S200-10.
8Tsai TH, Tsai TH, Wu WH, Tseng JT, Tasi PJ.In vitro antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of herbs against Propionibacterium acnes. Food Chem 2010;119:964-8.
9Ahmadi F, Rashed Marandi F, Saghari H, Emameh Kou H. Evaluation of antibiogram pattern of Propionibacterium acnes obtained from skin of patients with acne vulgaris. Pajoohandeh J 2007;12:229-34.
10Jantarat C, Sirathanarun P, Chuchue T, Konpian A, Sukkua G, Wongprasert P, et al. In vitro antimicrobial activity of gel containing the herbal ball extract against propionibacterium acnes. Sci Pharm 2018;86:8.
11Orla-Jensen S. The main lines of natural bacterial systems. Zentralbl Bakteriol Parasitenkd Infektionskr Hyg Abt 1909;2:305-46.
12Aubin GG, Portillo ME, Trampuz A, Corvec S. Propionibacterium acnes, an emerging pathogen: From acne to implant-infections, from phylotype to resistance. Med Mal Infect 2014;44:241-50.
13Douglas HC, Gunter SE. The taxonomic position of Corynebacterium acnes. J Bacteriol 1946;52:15-23.
14Patrick S, McDowell A, Genus I. Propionibacterium. In Good-fellow M, Kampfer P, Busse HJ, Trujillo ME, Suzuki KI, Ludwing W, et al. editors. Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. England: Springers; 2012. p. 1138-56.
15Scholz CF, Kilian M. The natural history of cutaneous propionibacteria, and reclassification of selected species within the genus Propionibacterium to the proposed novel genera Acidipropionibacterium gen. Nov. Cutibacterium gen. Nov. And Pseudopropionibacterium gen. Nov. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 2016;66:4422-32.
16Dréno B, Pécastaings S, Corvec S, Veraldi S, Khammari A, Roques C, et al. Cutibacterium acnes (Propionibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: A brief look at the latest updates. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2018;32 Suppl 2:5-14.
17Corvec S, Dagnelie MA, Khammari A, Dréno B. Taxonomy and phylogeny of Cutibacterium (formerly Propionibacterium) acnes in inflammatory skin diseases. Ann Dermatol Venereol 2019;146:26-30.
18Del Rosso JQ. Topical and oral antibiotics for acne vulgaris. Semin Cutan Med Surg 2016;35:57-61.
19Walsh TR, Efthimiou J, Dréno B. Systematic review of antibiotic resistance in acne: An increasing topical and oral threat. Lancet Infect Dis 2016;16:e23-33.
20Dessinioti C, Katsambas A. Propionibacterium acnes and antimicrobial resistance in acne. Clin Dermatol 2017;35:163-7.
21Dreno B. Bacteriological resistance in acne: A call to action. Eur J Dermatol 2016;26:127-32.
22Coenye T, Peeters E, Nelis HJ. Biofilm formation by Propionibacterium acnes is associated with increased resistance to antimicrobial agents and increased production of putative virulence factors. Res Microbiol 2007;158:386-92.
23Jahns AC, Lundskog B, Ganceviciene R, Palmer RH, Golovleva I, Zouboulis CC, et al. An increased incidence of Propionibacterium acnes biofilms in acne vulgaris: A case-control study. Br J Dermatol 2012;167:50-8.
24Sinha P, Srivastava S, Mishra N, Yadav NP. New perspectives on antiacne plant drugs: Contribution to modern therapeutics. Biomed Res Int 2014;2014:301304.
25Weber N, Biehler K, Schwabe K, Haarhaus B, Quirin KW, Frank U, et al. Hop extract acts as an antioxidant with antimicrobial effects against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus. Molecules 2019;24:223.
26Budhiraja A, Dhingra G. Development and characterization of a novel antiacne niosomal gel of rosmarinic acid. Drug Deliv 2015;22:723-30.
27Weckesser S, Engel K, Simon-Haarhaus B, Wittmer A, Pelz K, Schempp CM, et al. Screening of plant extracts for antimicrobial activity against bacteria and yeasts with dermatological relevance. Phytomedicine 2007;14:508-16.
28Eilami O, Oliverio M, Motlangh AH, Naghmachi M. Antimicrobial effects of hydroxytyrosol extractd from olive leaves, on Propionibacterium acnes. Clin Res Methods 2017;15:187-91.
29Kim SS, Kim JY, Lee NH, Hyun CG. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of jeju medicinal plants against acne-inducing bacteria. J Gen Appl Microbiol 2008;54:101-6.
30Yamaguchi N, Satoh-Yamaguchi K, Ono M.In vitro evaluation of antibacterial, anticollagenase, and antioxidant activities of hop components (Humulus lupulus) addressing acne vulgaris. Phytomedicine 2009;16:369-76.