Propionibacterium acnes is a Gram-positive bacterium that forms part of the normal flora of the skin, oral cavity, large intestine, the conjunctiva and the external ear canal. Although primarily recognized for its role in acne, P. acnes is an opportunistic pathogen, causing a range of postoperative and device-related infections. These include infections of the bones and joints, mouth, eye and brain. Device-related infections include those of joint prostheses, shunts and prosthetic heart valves. P. acnes may play a role in other conditions, including inflammation of the prostate leading to cancer, SAPHO (synovitis, acne, pustulosis, hyperostosis, osteitis) syndrome, sarcoidosis and sciatica. If an active role in these conditions is established there are major implications for diagnosis, treatment and protection. Genome sequencing of the organism has provided an insight into the pathogenic potential and virulence of P. acnes.