Wine drinkers, rejoice! A key antioxidant derived from grapes - and also found in wine - inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have also found that combining resveratrol with a common acne medication, benzoyl peroxide, may enhance the drug's ability to kill the bacteria and could translate into new treatments.
The early lab findings demonstrated that resveratrol and benzoyl peroxide attack the acne bacteria, called Propionibacterium acnes, in different ways.
Resveratrol has prompted some doctors to recommend that adults drink red wine for its heart-health properties.
The antioxidant stops the formation of free radicals, which cause cell and tissue damage. Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidant that works by creating free radicals that kill the acne bacteria.
"We initially thought that since actions of the two compounds are opposing, the combination should cancel the other out, but they didn't," said Dr Emma Taylor, the study's first author and an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the division of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
"This study demonstrates that combining an oxidant and an antioxidant may enhance each other and help sustain bacteria-fighting activity over a longer period of time," said Taylor.
The team grew colonies of the bacteria that causes acne and added various concentrations of resveratrol and benzoyl peroxide both alone and together. The researchers monitored the cultures for bacterial growth or killing for 10 days.
They found that benzoyl peroxide was able to initially kill the bacteria at all concentration levels, but the effect was short lived and didn't last beyond the first 24 hours.
Resveratrol didn't have a strong killing capability, but it inhibited bacterial growth for a longer period of time. Surprisingly, the two compounds together proved the most effective in reducing bacteria counts.
"It was like combining the best of both worlds and offering a two-pronged attack on the bacteria," said senior author Dr Jenny Kim, professor of clinical medicine in the division of dermatology at the Geffen School.
Using a high-powered microscope, researchers observed that bacteria cells lost some of the structure and definition of their outer membranes, indicating resveratrol may work by altering and possibly weakening the structure of the bacteria.
The researchers also cultured human skin cells and blood cells with the two compounds to test their toxicity. They found that benzoyl peroxide was much more toxic than resveratrol, which could help explain what causes skin to become red and irritated when it's used as a topical treatment in high dose or concentration.
The finding could lead to a more effective and less irritating topical acne therapy, researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy.