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The skin microbiome and its relationship with the human body explained

Microbial niches

The skin contains a diverse microbial ecosystem, which is seeded at birth, but evolves until a person reaches sexual maturity.

Graphic showing releative abundance of microorganisms on the skin

Infographic: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Healthy collaborations

The skin is a largely dry and nutrient-poor environment, but some microbes such as Staphylococcus epidermidis and Cutibacterium acnes are able to survive. These skin residents communicate with host cells and help to defend against infection and injury2.

Graphic showing how microbes interact with with host cells in the skin

Infographic: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Graphic showing how microbes interact with with host cells in the skin

Infographic: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Graphic showing how microbes interact with with host cells in the skin

Infographic: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Turf wars lead to disease

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is associated with atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema common in children that can give rise to other allergies later in life. Several beneficial species of Staphylococcus normally protect against S. aureus, but genetics, and possibly environmental and lifestyle factors, can mean this balance of power is disturbed in some individuals, making them susceptible to the condition.

Graphic exploring the link between Staphylococcus and atopic dermatitis

Infographic: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Nature 588, S210-S211 (2020)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03524-6

This article is part of Nature Outline: The skin microbiome, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties. About this content.

References

  1. Byrd, A., Belkaid, Y. & Segre, J. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 16, 143–155 (2018).

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Flowers, L. & Grice, E. A. Cell Host Microbe 28, 190–200 (2020).

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Scharschmidt, T. C. et al. Immunity 43, 1011–1021 (2015).

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

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