Research Article: Chitosan against cutaneous pathogens

Date Published: July 6, 2013

Publisher: Springer

Author(s): Jackson Champer, Julie Patel, Nathalie Fernando, Elaheh Salehi, Victoria Wong, Jenny Kim.


Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus are cutaneous pathogens that have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. We sought to determine if chitosan, a polymer of deacetylated chitin, could be used as a potential treatment against these bacteria. We found that higher molecular weight chitosan had superior antimicrobial properties compared to lower molecular weights, and that this activity occurred in a pH dependent manner. Electron and fluorescence microscopy revealed that chitosan forms aggregates and binds to the surface of bacteria, causing shrinkage of the bacterial membrane from the cell wall. Of special relevance, clinical isolates of P. acnes were vulnerable to chitosan, which could be combined with benzoyl peroxide for additive antibacterial effect. Chitosan also demonstrated significantly less cytotoxicity to monocytes than benzoyl peroxide. Overall, chitosan demonstrates many promising qualities for treatment of cutaneous pathogens.

Partial Text

Chitosan is derived from the partial deacetylation of chitin, a natural polysaccharide composed of β1 → 4 linked N-acetylglucosamine. It has demonstrated potential as a vehicle for drug and DNA delivery via nanoparticles (Singla and Chawla 2001), as a food preserving agent (No et al 2007), and as a wound dressing for severely hemorrhaging injuries (Brown et al. 2009). Chitosan is also known to have antimicrobial activity against viruses (Kurita 2006), fungi, and bacteria (Rabea et al. 2003), which combined with its high biocompatibility, low toxicity, and ability to biodegrade, make it a promising candidate for medical use against various pathogens (Kong et al. 2010). Chitosan has already been shown to be effective in vivo against bacteria (Lee et al. 2009; Moon et al. 2007).

As bacteria develop resistance to common antibiotic therapies, there is a need to develop new treatment options. This public health issue is clearly evident in acne vulgaris, which affects over 80% of the population at some point in their lives. Therefore, we assessed the potential of chitosan as an antimicrobial agent against two common cutaneous pathogens. In addition, we gathered data on the antibacterial mechanism of chitosan, and determined how certain properties of chitosan affect its antibacterial activity.

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.




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