Acne: More Than Skin Deep

Michael J. Chuang, MD, and Wesley M. Nottage, MD

To the general public, the organism known as Propionibacterium acnes (P acnes) is the pathogen that causes acnes vulgaris, a skin condition that results in ugly papules and permanent scarring. The media perception of acne infection is focused on these scarring effects, which are magnified by the social implications of such a disease.

In the medical community, however, this organism is gaining significant notice for its devastating effects on deeper organ systems. It is recognized as the primary pathogen in infections after shoulder surgery and has been found to infect the brain, cranium, and spine as well. The implications of P acnes are even expanding into the realm of osteoarthritis as orthopaedic researchers examine whether it plays a role in advancing joint degeneration.

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