In Skin Microbiome Study, Scientists Find Host Genotype Influences Bacterial Populations

A paper that came out in the Journal of Innate Immunity this summer reports that a person’s genotype affects which microbes will colonize his or her skin, which in turn may alter that person’s defense mechanisms against pathogenic organisms.

Skin Microbiome Imbalance in Patients with STAT1/STAT3 Defects Impairs Innate Host Defense Responses” comes from a team of scientists in Boston and The Netherlands. Lead author Sanne Smeekens, from Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, and her collaborators investigated patients with immunodeficiencies linked to mutations in STAT1 and STAT3 that increase susceptibility to skin and mucosal infections, particularly from fungal pathogens or Staphylococcus aureus.

To determine the implications of these mutations in microbiome and host defense, the scientists compared skin and oral samples from several patients with age-matched healthy controls. Microbial colonies were assessed with 16S rRNA sequencing, performed on Illumina MiSeq after size selection with Pippin Prep.

The team found that immunodeficient patients’ microbiomes contained more Gram-negative bacteria (particularly Acinetobacter) and less Corynebacterium than their healthy counterparts. Functional studies revealed that the difference in microbiome composition leads to an inhibited immune response to Candida albicans and S. aureus in these patients.

“These data in patients with immunodeficiencies prove that the microbiome can influence host defense and could open the possibility of microbiome-based adjuvant therapy in patients with immune defects,” the authors conclude.

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