30th August 2012 - The skin condition rosacea may be triggered by a certain kind of bacteria living in tiny mites that crawl around the face, say scientists who have reviewed existing evidence.
Rosacea is a common but poorly understood disorder of the facial skin with a characteristic red-faced, acne-like appearance. Rosacea can have a negative impact on peoples' lives, with one survey showing that 76% of patients found that the condition had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Earlier this month, a coroner's inquest heard how a 31 year old woman committed suicide by jumping from the Humber Bridge because she was distraught at having rosacea.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the scientists say that if a bacterial cause can be finally established, it could lead to more targeted and effective treatments for the condition.
The new review carried out by the National University of Ireland and the University of Medical Sciences in Poland concludes that rosacea may be triggered by the bacteria bacillus oleronius living within tiny mites that inhabit areas of skin damaged by bad weather, age or a particularly acidic form of sebum.
The mite species Demodex folliculorum is worm-like in shape and usually lives harmlessly in the glands that produce sweat and sebum. When the mite dies, bacteria in its gut spill out into the glands.
Lead author Kevin Kavanagh says in a statement: "The bacteria live in the digestive tracts of Demodex mites found on the face, in a mutually beneficial relationship. When the mites die, the bacteria are released and leak into surrounding skin tissues - triggering tissue degradation and inflammation.
"Once the numbers of mites increase, so does the number of bacteria, making rosacea more likely to occur."
Hope of new treatments
The good news is that the bacterium is sensitive to antibiotics used to treat rosacea, the researchers say. "Targeting these bacteria may be a useful way of treating and preventing this condition," says Dr Kavanagh.
He continues: "Alternatively we could look at controlling the population of Demodex mites in the face... Some pharmaceutical companies are already developing therapies to do this, which represents a novel way of preventing and reversing rosacea, which can be painful and embarrassing for many people."
Dr Bav Shergill from the British Association of Dermatologists says in an emailed comment: "This is an interesting review of the possible role of Demodex in causing Rosacea. Rosacea is a complex inflammatory condition which has been hard to treat despite much research.
"The authors present some interesting ideas that would merit further research as part of a clinical trial."
The potential role of Demodex folliculorum mites and bacteria in the induction of rosacea, K Kavanagh et al, Journal of Medical Microbiology.
British Association of Dermatologists.
' Rosacea skin condition drove woman, 31, to suicide', This is Hull and East Riding, 16th August 2012.
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