Propionibacterium acnes is the relatively slow-growing, typically aerotolerant anaerobic, Gram positive bacteria linked to the skin condition of acne; it can also cause chronic blepharitis and endophthalmitis, the latter particularly following intraocular surgery. The genome of the bacterium has been sequenced and a study has shown several genes can generate enzymes for degrading skin and proteins that may be immunogenic (activating the immune system).
It is usually just barely detectable on the skin of healthy preadolescents. It lives primarily on, among other things, fatty acids in sebum secreted by sebaceous glands in the follicles. It may also be found throughout the gastrointestinal tract in humans and many other animals.
It is named after its ability to generate propionic acid.
Propionibacterium acnes was cultured from intervertebral disc tissue of ~25% of patients undergoing microdiscectomy, suggesting a possible link between chronic bacterial infection and disc degeneration. However, given the prominence of P. acnes as a skin commensal, such analyses often struggled to exclude the alternate possibility that these organisms represent perioperative microbiologic contamination
A study confirms that P. acnes is prevalent in herniated disc tissue. Moreover, it provides the first visual evidence of P. acnes biofilms within such specimens, consistent with infection rather than microbiologic contamination 1).
The presence of 36/46 modic changes in patients with lumbar disc herniation, positive for P. acnes suggests that P. acnes can lead to edema on the vertebrae endplates near to infected area 2).
In a study, 145 patients including 25 cases with cervical and 120 cases with lumbar disc herniation were enrolled. There was no significant difference in the age of male and female patients (p = 0.123). P. acnes infection was detected in nine patients (36%) with cervical disc herniation and 46 patients (38.3%) with lumbar disc herniation and no significant differences were reported in P. acnes presence according to the disc regions (p = 0.508.). Moreover, there was a significant difference in the presence of P. acnes infection according to the level of lumbar disc herniation (p = 0.028).
According to the results, the presence of P. acnes is equal in patients with cervical and lumbar disc herniation. There was a significant difference in the distribution of P. acnes infection according to level of lumbar disc herniation 3).