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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2013, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (5): 320-326.doi: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013043

• Research Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of cosmetics containing purified honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) venom on acne vulgaris

Sang Mi Hana(), Kwang Gill Leea, Sok Cheon Pakb   

  1. a. Department of Agricultural Biology, National Academy of Agricultural Science, Suwon 441-100, Korea
    b. School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, New South Wales 2795, Australia
  • Received:2012-11-26 Accepted:2013-03-06 Online:2013-09-10 Published:2013-09-15


Acne vulgaris is a chronic dermatologic problem with multiple factors involved in its pathogenesis. Alternative solutions to acne treatment were instigated by antibiotic resistance despite of its extensive use. Purified bee venom (PBV) has been proposed as a promising candidate for that purpose. The present study was designed to confirm the antibacterial effect of PBV and access the efficacy of cosmetics containing PBV in subjects with acne vulgaris.


The skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes was incubated with PBV at various concentrations and bacterial growth was evaluated using the colony forming unit (CFU) assay. The mechanism of PBV employed in killing P. acnes was examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). In addition, a total of 12 subjects were randomized in a double-blind, controlled trial to receive either cosmetics containing PBV or cosmetics without PBV for two weeks. Evaluations included lesion counts and skin microorganism.


PBV exhibited antimicrobial activity in a concentration-dependent manner, reducing the number of P. acnes CFU by approximately 6 logs at a concentration of 0.5 mg. When PBV concentration was higher than 1.0 mg, no P. acnes colonies were spotted on an agar. TEM and SEM of untreated P. acnes illustrated the normal pleomorphic structure, whereas the PBV-treated bacterium lost the integrity of surface architecture. Significant difference (P=0.027) in the grading levels based on numbers of lesion counts for inflammatory and noninflammatory was observed in favour of the PBV group compared with the control group. In terms of average decrement of skin microorganism, subjects receiving cosmetics containing PBV experienced a significant 57.5% decrease of adenosine triphosphate levels, whereas participants receiving cosmetics without PBV experienced a nonsignificant decrease of 4.7%.


These results show that the in vitro actions of antimicrobial activity of PBV were translated in vivo. Cosmetics containing PBV provided a certain degree of efficacy in terms of lesion counts and skin microorganism concentration compared with cosmetics without PBV in subjects with acne vulgaris. PBV may be a good candidate compound for developing therapeutic drug for the treatment of acne vulgaris.

Key words: Bee venoms, Acne vulgaris, Propionibacterium acnes, Skin, Cosmetics


Figure 1

PBV has antimicrobial activity against P. acnesA: Various concentrations of PBV were incubated with P. acnes for 4 h at 37 °C and tested for antimicrobial activity using the CFU assay. B: The antimicrobial activity of PBV in a qualitative CFU assay which involved plating PBV with P. acnes on solid media and counting individual colonies to determine the CFU. Experiments in A and B are representative of three experiments. PBV: purified bee venom; CFU: colony forming unit."

Figure 2

PBV caused architectural changes of cell wall of P. acnes demonstrated by electron micrographsA: Scanning electron microscopy analysis demonstrated the effect of PBV on the surface of P. acnes as compared to the surfaces of untreated control bacteria (× 20 000). B: Transmission electron microscopy revealed that PBV treatment disrupted the sharply layered surface architecture of P. acnes, making the cell wall less distinct and more permeable to fluid influx (× 1 000, pictures in the square are × 3 150). PBV: purified bee venom."

Figure 3

Flow diagram of the number of patients included in this trial"

Figure 4

Photographs of subjects at baseline and week 2 of treatment for (A) control group and (B) purified bee venom group"



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