Identification of a Human Skin Commensal Bacterium that Selectively Kills Cutibacterium acnes

J Invest Dermatol. 2020 Aug;140(8):1619-1628.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.12.026. Epub 2020 Jan 23.


The microbiome represents a vast resource for drug discovery, as its members engage in constant conflict to outcompete one another by deploying diverse strategies for survival. Cutibacterium acnes is one of the most common bacterial species on human skin and can promote the common disease acne vulgaris. By employing a combined strategy of functional screening, genetics, and proteomics we discovered a strain of Staphylococcus capitis (S. capitis E12) that selectively inhibited growth of C. acnes with potency greater than antibiotics commonly used in the treatment of acne. Antimicrobial peptides secreted from S. capitis E12 were identified as four distinct phenol-soluble modulins acting synergistically. These peptides were not toxic to human keratinocytes and the S. capitis extract did not kill other commensal skin bacteria but was effective against C. acnes on pig skin and on mice. Overall, these data show how a member of the human skin microbiome can be useful as a biotherapy for acne vulgaris.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / immunology
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology
  • Acne Vulgaris / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biological Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins / metabolism
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins / toxicity
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Propionibacterium acnes / immunology
  • Propionibacterium acnes / pathogenicity
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus capitis / immunology*
  • Staphylococcus capitis / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus capitis / metabolism
  • Swine
  • Symbiosis / immunology*
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Young Adult


  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins