Cutibacterium acnes: Much ado about maybe nothing much

Exp Dermatol. 2021 Oct;30(10):1471-1476. doi: 10.1111/exd.14394. Epub 2021 Jun 9.


Cutibacterium acnes (also known as Propionibacterium acnes) has long been implicated in the pathogenesis of acne, inspiring both therapeutic and personal care approaches aiming to control the disease by controlling the bacterium. The purported association has made people with acne feel dirty and led to the-at times excessive-use of cleansers, antiseptics and antibiotics for the condition. However, recent evidence seems to weaken the case for C. acnes' involvement. New genetics and molecular biology findings strongly suggest that abnormal differentiation of sebaceous progenitor cells causes comedones, the primary lesions in acne. Comodegenesis is initiated by androgens and is unlikely to be triggered by C. acnes, which probably doesn't affect sebaceous differentiation. Is there still a place for it in this understanding of acne? It is necessary to critically address this question because it has consequences for treatment. Antibiotic use for acne noticeably contributes to microbial drug resistance, which we can ill afford. In this Viewpoint, we explore if and how C. acnes (still) fits into the developing view on acne. We also briefly discuss the implications for therapy in the light of antibiotic resistance and the need for more targeted therapies.

Keywords: Propionibacterium acnes; Cutibacterium acnes; acne; aryl hydrocarbon receptor; comedo; phage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Sebum / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents