To understand the basis for the anti-inflammatory activity of tetracyclines in acne, we compared the cytokine profiles [interleukin 1 (IL-1) alpha and beta, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha, and IL-6] and bacterial flora of 66 open comedones removed from eleven patients before and after at least 8 weeks treatment with either tetracycline or minocycline. Pre-treatment, the only cytokine regularly recovered from comedones was bioactive IL-1 alpha-like material. The mean concentration of IL-1 alpha-like bioactivity/mg comedonal material rose from 272.0 +/- 88.6 pg to 844.3 +/- 196.7 pg following treatment (p < 0.05, Wilcoxon matched pairs). All six minocycline-treated patients showed an increase in bioactive IL-1 alpha-like material compared with three of five tetracycline-treated patients. The incidence (p < 0.001, chi 2) and concentration (p < 0.05, Wilcoxon) of immunochemical IL-beta were also raised post-treatment, although significantly more patients assigned to minocycline therapy had detectable levels of this cytokine before therapy was initiated. However, the mean concentration of IL-1 beta/mg comedonal material post-treatment was similar in both groups (72.5 +/- 23.3 pg for tetracycline-treated compared with 78.6 +/- 41.9 pg for minocycline-treated patients). The other cytokines were either absent (IL-6) or present in < 10% of comedones (TNF alpha) before and after therapy. Following treatment, only three of 11 patients showed a decrease of > or = 1 log10 in propionibacterial numbers/mg comedonal material, whereas six patients showed an increase of > 0.5 log10 in numbers of staphylococci. In eight patients, the increase or decrease in staphylococcal numbers correlated with the change in concentration of IL-1 alpha-like bioactivity. This is the first study to show an effect of antibiotic therapy on cytokine levels in vivo. Increased levels of IL-1 in comedones destined to become inflamed may enhance resolution and promote repair of the damaged follicular epithelium. Hence, these results provide further evidence of the augmentation of immune responses by tetracyclines and support the hypothesis that epidermal IL-1 plays a physiologic role in wound healing.
Eady EA, Ingham E, Walters CE, Cove JH, Cunliffe WJ