Topical antimicrobial treatments can elicit shifts to resident skin bacterial communities and reduce colonization by Staphylococcus aureus competitors

Posted by: | July 11, 2017 | Comments

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and a dead human neutrophil


The skin microbiome is a complex ecosystem with important implications for cutaneous health and disease. Topical antibiotics and antiseptics are often employed to preserve the balance of this population, and inhibit colonization by more pathogenic bacteria. Despite their widespread use, however, the impact of these interventions on broader microbial communities remains poorly understood. Here we report the longitudinal effects of topical antibiotics and antiseptics on skin bacterial communities and their role in Staphylococcus aureus colonization resistance. In response to antibiotics, cutaneous populations exhibited an immediate shift in bacterial residents, an effect that persisted for multiple days post-treatment. By contrast, antiseptics elicited only minor changes to skin bacterial populations, with few changes to the underlying microbiota. While variable in scope, both antibiotics and antiseptics were found to decrease colonization by commensal Staphylococcus spp. by sequencing- and culture-based methods, an effect which was highly dependent on baseline levels of Staphylococcus. Because Staphylococcus residents have been shown to compete with the skin pathogen S. aureus, we also tested whether treatment could influence S. aureus levels at the skin surface. We found that treated mice were more susceptible to exogenous association with S. aureus, and that precolonization with the same Staphylococcus residents that were previously disrupted by treatment could reduce S. aureus levels by over 100-fold. In all, this study indicates that antimicrobial drugs can alter skin bacterial residents, and that these alterations can have critical implications for cutaneous host defense.

Read more at: American Society for Microbiology.

Adam J. SanMiguel, Jacquelyn S. Meisel, Joseph Horwinski, Qi Zheng and Elizabeth A. Grice. Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Accepted manuscript posted online 19 June 2017, doi: 10.1128/AAC.00774-17.

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