Systematic review of antibiotic resistance in acne: an increasing topical and oral threat

Lancet Infect Dis. 2016 Mar;16(3):e23-33. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00527-7. Epub 2016 Feb 5.


Topical and oral antibiotics are routinely used to treat acne. However, antibiotic resistance is increasing, with many countries reporting that more than 50% of Propionibacterium acnes strains are resistant to topical macrolides, making them less effective. We reviewed the current scientific literature to enable proposal of recommendations for antibiotic use in acne treatment. References were identified through PubMed searches for articles published from January, 1954, to March 7, 2015, using four multiword searches. Ideally, benzoyl peroxide in combination with a topical retinoid should be used instead of a topical antibiotic to minimise the impact of resistance. Oral antibiotics still have a role in the treatment of moderate-to-severe acne, but only with a topical retinoid, benzoyl peroxide, or their combination, and ideally for no longer than 3 months. To limit resistance, it is recommended that benzoyl peroxide should always be added when long-term oral antibiotic use is deemed necessary. The benefit-to-risk ratio of long-term antibiotic use should be carefully considered and, in particular, use alone avoided where possible. There is a need to treat acne with effective alternatives to antibiotics to reduce the likelihood of resistance.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Benzoyl Peroxide / administration & dosage
  • Benzoyl Peroxide / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Propionibacterium acnes / drug effects*
  • Retinoids / administration & dosage
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Retinoids
  • Benzoyl Peroxide