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Acne and Vitamin Supplements: the case of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis.
Kang D, Shi B, Erfe MC, Craft N, Li H.
Sci Transl Med. 2015 Jun 24;7(293):293ra103. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2009.

In the us in 2007, 23 billion were spent on vitamins and mineral supplements (Magnesium, Calcium…). Vitamin supplements are widely available overt the counter (OTC)

More than half a century ago, it was found that acne lesions were induced by Vitamin B12 intake in a part of the population.

In this study, The genes of the Propionibacterium Acnes bacterium residing in the skin was analyzed (microbiota)


-In subjects with Acne Vulgaris, the B12 biosynthesis pathway was down-regulated, thus vitamin B12 supplementation reduced the expression of vitamin B12.
-In addition to this B12 pathway reduction of activity, there was an alteration of the transcriptome of Propionibacterium Acnes in the skin (RNA present in the skin; to simplyfy gene expression in the nucleus leads to RNA expression which then results in proteins)
-This reduction of the B12 biosynthesis pathway induces the inflammatory lesions of acne by inducing affected cells to produce porphyrins (these are inflammation producing porphyrins)

-administration of intramuscular B12 injections in 10 healthy subjects
-this was done by collecting swabs on the follicular nose skin
-and on the skin from healthy subjects at baseline, 2 days after the injection at three time points: baseline control, 2 days after the injection, and 14 days after the injection.
-Measurement of expression of genes involved in the B12 biosynthesis pathway (cysG+cbiX, cbiL, and btuR) (9acne patients and 15 healthy subjects were added for this analysis)
-In acne subjects (vs healthy ones), the expression of porphyrins was then measured (by luminesence in Propionibacterium Cultures)
one out of the 10 subjects receiving the supplementation developed acne one week after beginning the injections
Vit B12 sometimes promotes inflammatory acne because down-regulation of the B12 biosynthesis pathway which induces the production of pro-inflammatory porphyrins


Article selection: Prof Dr Jean-Hilaire Saurat – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland