Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery

Efficacy of combinational therapy using blue light and benzoyl peroxide in reducing Cutibacterium acnes bioburden at the deltopectoral interval: a randomized controlled trial

Published:August 31, 2021DOI:


      The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of blue light therapy (BLT) and 5% topical benzoyl peroxide (BPO) gel in combination with standard chlorhexidine (CHX) preparation in eradicating Cutibacterium acnes at the deltopectoral interval measured by positive, quantitative culture findings.


      Adult male volunteers were randomized to 1 of 3 treatment groups: BPO, BLT, and BPO followed by BLT. Contralateral shoulders served as matched controls. Volunteers randomized to BPO applied the gel for a total of 5 treatments. In the BLT group, a single 23-minute treatment was administered at an estimated irradiance of 40 mW/cm2 (radiant exposure, 55.2 J/cm2). In the BPO-BLT group, volunteers received both treatments as described earlier. After treatment with either BPO, BLT, or both, a single swab culture was taken from the treatment shoulder. Next, control and treatment shoulders were prepared with CHX, and cultures were taken from each shoulder. Cultures were sent for anaerobic quantitative growth analysis with both polymerase chain reaction and Sanger sequencing confirmation of presumptive C acnes colonies.


      This study enrolled 60 male volunteers, 20 per group, with no loss to follow-up. After treatment but prior to CHX administration, all culture samples in the BPO group and BLT group grew C acnes. Prior to CHX, 16 samples (80%) in the BPO-BLT group grew C acnes. On quantitative analysis, the BPO group and BPO-BLT group had significantly less growth of C acnes compared with the BLT group after treatment but prior to CHX (P < .05 for each). Following CHX administration, the BPO and BPO-BLT groups had significantly fewer positive culture findings (odds ratios of 0.03 and 0.29, respectively) and less quantity of growth compared with their control arms (P < .05). This was not seen in the BLT group. For quantitative between-group analysis, no significant synergistic effects were seen with BPO-BLT compared with BPO alone (P = .688). There was no difference in side effects between groups.


      The combination of topical BPO and CHX was effective at eliminating C acnes in most cases. BLT alone did not demonstrate effective antimicrobial properties against C acnes at the radiant exposure administered in this study. Combining BPO and BLT did not lead to significant synergistic antimicrobial effects. Both BPO and BLT are safe with few, transient side effects reported. More work is needed to determine whether BLT at higher radiant exposures or serial treatment results in bactericidal effects against C acnes in vivo.

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