About this Journal Submit a Manuscript Table of Contents
BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 679680, 8 pages
Review Article

A Honey Trap for the Treatment of Acne: Manipulating the Follicular Microenvironment to Control Propionibacterium acnes

1Department of Dermatology, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, Lancaster Park Road, Harrogate HG2 7SX, UK
2Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Received 11 January 2013; Accepted 12 April 2013

Academic Editor: Peter A. Lambert

Copyright © 2013 E. Anne Eady et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Today, as 40 years ago, we still rely on a limited number of antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide to treat inflammatory acne. An alternative way of suppressing the growth of Propionibacterium acnes is to target the environment in which it thrives. We conjecture that P. acnes colonises a relatively “extreme” habitat especially in relation to the availability of water and possibly related factors such as ionic strength and osmolarity. We hypothesise that the limiting “nutrient” within pilosebaceous follicles is water since native sebum as secreted by the sebaceous gland contains none. An aqueous component must be available within colonised follicles, and water may be a major factor determining which follicles can sustain microbial populations. One way of preventing microbial growth is to reduce the water activity ( ) of this component with a biocompatible solute of very high water solubility. For the method to work effectively, the solute must be small, easily diffusible, and minimally soluble in sebaceous lipids. Xylose and sucrose, which fulfil these criteria, are nonfermentable by P. acnes and have been used to reduce water activity and hence bacterial colonisation of wounds. A new follicularly targeted topical treatment for acne based on this approach should be well tolerated and highly effective.