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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 75  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 37-38

Antibiotic resistance in acne

members Indian Acne Alliance, India

Correspondence Address:
Raj Kubba
Consultant Dermatologist, Kubba Clinic,10, Aradhana Enclave, Ring Road, New Delhi - 110066
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Source of Support: Production and publication of this supplement is made possible by an educational grant from Galderma India Pvt. Ltd., Conflict of Interest: Indian Acne Alliance (IAA) meetings logistics to formulate IAA consensus document DQAcne in India: Guidelines for managementDQ were supported by Galderma India Pvt. Ltd.

PMID: 19282590

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How to cite this article:
Kubba R, Bajaj A K, Thappa D M, Sharma R, Vedamurthy M, Dhar S, Criton S, Fernandez R, Kanwar A J, Khopkar U, Kohli M, Kuriyipe V P, Lahiri K, Madnani N, Parikh D, Pujara S, Rajababu K K, Sacchidanand S, Sharma V K, Thomas J. Antibiotic resistance in acne. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2009;75, Suppl S1:37-8

How to cite this URL:
Kubba R, Bajaj A K, Thappa D M, Sharma R, Vedamurthy M, Dhar S, Criton S, Fernandez R, Kanwar A J, Khopkar U, Kohli M, Kuriyipe V P, Lahiri K, Madnani N, Parikh D, Pujara S, Rajababu K K, Sacchidanand S, Sharma V K, Thomas J. Antibiotic resistance in acne. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2009 [cited 2021 Jan 20];75, Suppl S1:37-8. Available from:

Antibiotic resistance is defined as a change in susceptibility of a microorganism to an antibiotic such that a higher concentration of the drug is required to inhibit growth of a resistant strain compared to fully susceptible wild type strain.

Widespread use of tetracyclines and erythromycin occurred for more than 25 years before less-sensitive strains and clinically relevant or 'resistant' strains were identified. In late 1970's, a few strains of P. acnes that were relatively resistant to erythromycin and clindamycin were first reported and were viewed to be clinically not significant. [1] In the early 1980's, shortly after the introduction of topical formulations of erythromycin and clindamycin, clinically relevant, less-sensitive strains were detected. [2] Some of these strains were highly resistant to erythromycin. Subsequently, in late 1980's and early 1990's, more clinically relevant antibiotic resistance and strains with multiple drug resistance were identified. [3],[4],[5]

Generally, bacteria develop antibiotic resistance by acquiring plasmids, which can be transferred between strains of a species and even between species in some instances. With tetracycline and erythromycin, plasmids and transposons encode for pump proteins that efflux antibiotics away from ribosomes and, less commonly, the resistance is due to enzyme inactivation. [6],[7],[8] In case of clinically relevant strains of resistant P. acnes , plasmids have not been found. Rather, point mutations in the genes encoding the 23S rRNA (erythromycin) and the 16S rRNA (tetracycline) have been identified. [9],[10],[11],[12]

Three phenotypes of erythromycin resistant P. acnes have been identified as shown in [Table 11]. It is important to know that microbiological resistance does not always equate with clinical resistance. Only concentration of the drug does not play sole role in controlling P. acnes colonization in the microenvironment of the comedone. Other local factors also contribute. Antibiotics also have direct anti-inflammatory actions. The concentration of antibiotics in pilosebaceous ducts varies considerably.[13] Various factors may be attributed to suboptimal antibiotic effects. For example, high sebum excretion rate may flush out antibiotic, thus lowering the concentration. Low concentration of the antibiotic favors emergence of antibiotic resistant P. acnes . Poor patient compliance is another factor that operates through lowered antibiotic concentration.

  When to Suspect Antibiotic Resistance ? Top

  • When there is no clinical improvement in the context of good compliance.
  • When early response is followed by a relapse in the face of continued treatment.
  • When the patient has been treated with multiple courses of antibiotics without much clinical improvement.
  • If the patient exhibits poor compliance.

  Treatment of Antibiotic Resistant Acne Top

Options include using higher doses of the concerned antibiotics, for example, minocycline 100 mg b.i.d., doxycycline 100 mg b.i.d.; switching to another, previously not used, antibiotic, such as a newer macrolides, oral isotretinoin, and antiandrogens.

Can be overcome with higher doses.

What is the magnitude of antibiotic resistance in acne in India is anybody's guess? IAA believes it is high. If parallels can be drawn, than Spain, a country where prescription laws are lax much like our own, antibiotic resistance is the highest at 94%. [13] Every effort should be made to prevent antibiotic resistance. Global Alliance for Acne recommends that: antibiotics should not be prescribed unless necessary; treatment courses should be kept short; BPO should be combined with antibiotics or used in between antibiotic courses; simultaneous use of dissimilar oral and topical antibiotics should be avoided; and good compliance should be emphasized.

  References Top

1.Crawford W, Crawford IP, Stoughton RB, Cornell RC. Laboratory induction and clinical occurrence of combined clindamycin and erythromycin resistance in Corynebacterium acnes . J Invest Dermatol 1979;72:187-90.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Leyden JJ, McGinley KJ, Cavalieri S, Webster GF, Mills OH, Kligman AM. Propionibacterium acnes resistance to antibiotics in acne patients, J Am Acad Dermatol 1983;8:41-5.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Eady EA, Jones CE, Gardner KJ, Taylor JP, Cove JH, Cunliffe WJ. Tetracycline resistant propionibacteria from acne patients are cross-resistant to doxycycline, but sensitive to minocycline. Br J Dermatol 1993;128:556-60.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Eady EA, Cove JH, Holland KT, Cunliffe WJ. Erythromycin-resistant propionibacteria in antibiotic treated acne patients: Association with therapeutic failure. Br J Dermatol 1989;121:51-7.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  
5.Eady EA. Bacterial resistance in acne. Dermatology 1998;196:59-66.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
6.Leelereq R, Courvalin P. Intrinsic and unusual resistance to macrolide lincosamide and streptogramin antibiotics in bacteria. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1991;35:1273-6.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Weisblum B. Erythromycin resistance by ribosomal modification. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1995;39:577-85.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
8.Schnappinger D, Hillen W. Tetracyclines: Antibiotic action, uptake, and resistance mechanisms. Arch Microbiol 1996;163:359-69.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Ross JI, Eady EA, Cove JH, Jones CE, Ratyal AH, Miller YW, et al . Clinical resistance to erythromycin and clindamycin in cutaneous propionibacteria isolated from acne patients is associated with mutations in 23S r-RNA. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1997;41:1162-5.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
10.Eady EA, Ross JI, Cove JH, Holland KT, Cunliffe WJ. Macrolide - lincosamide - streptogramin B (MLS) resistance in cutaneous propionibacteria. Definition of phenotypes. J Antimicrob Chemother 1989;23:493-502.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Ross JI, Eady EA, Cove JH, Cunliffe WJ. 16S r-RNA mutation associated with tetracycline resistance in a gram-positive bacterium. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1998;42:1702-5.  Back to cited text no. 11  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
12.Eady EA, Ross JI, Cove JH,. Multiple mechanisms of erythromycin resistance. J Antimicrob Chemother 1990;26:461-71.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Ross JI, Snelling AM, Carnegie E, Coates P, Cunliffe WJ, Bettoli V, et al . Antibiotic resistant acne: Lessons from Europe. Br J Dermatol 2003;148;467-78.  Back to cited text no. 13    


  [Table 11]


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