A scientist says he can develop a gel which will provide effective treatment of acne without side-effects.
Cures sought for acne
Professor Keith Holland, of the University of Leeds, said tests showed a virus commonly found on skin could kill the bacteria responsible for acne.
Dermatologists backed the research, but noted it was only at an early stage.
The findings come as a survey for the Acne Support Group showed children suffering from it were often missing out on schooling as a result.
Current treatments either have side-effects or involve antibiotics which, if used too much, create resistant strains.
Certain types of contraceptive pill are sometimes prescribed to alter hormonal levels responsible for the acne.
The Acne Support Group survey of 563 people found 40% of school children with acne suffered a loss of concentration on their studies as a result.
And 20% took time off school.
Among adults, 83% said their self-confidence was affected and 80% felt depressed because of the condition.
Professor Holland, a microbiologist at the Leeds Skin Research Centre, hopes to use a bacteria-specific virus, called a bacteriophage, which is commonly found on human skin.
The effect of acne on sufferers
40% of schoolchildren with acne cannot concentrate on their studies
20% of children miss school because of the condition
83% of adults' self-confidence falls
80% of adults suffer depression
84% of people suffer scarring
Tests showed it attacked the bacteria responsible for acne, Professor Holland said.
He hopes to start clinical trials, testing the treatment on patients, in the summer.
Professor Holland said: "We are thinking of the future. We think a possible answer is the use of bacteriophage.
"We want to make a gel which contains the bacteriophage which we can put in a higher concentration on the skin."
Because it is naturally present, he believes there will not be a toxic side-effect in using it as a treatment.
Alison Dudley, of the Acne Support Group, said new therapies were needed.
"We are still in the dark ages with acne," she said.
Professor Holland does not yet have funding for the clinical trials he hopes to run.
Professor Michael Davis, of Central Connecticut State University's department of biological sciences, is carrying out similar research into the use of bacteriophage.
He said: "If you are treating bacterial diseases on the outside of people, I think they are a natural thing to use."
Dr Debra Jaliman, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology, said there was not yet widespread research into the use of bacteriophage, but that it could be a positive development for the future.
She said: "It could be a big breakthrough. There are so many acne sufferers that it is something that is definitely needed."