Microbial diversity in chronic open wounds

Wound Repair Regen. Mar-Apr 2009;17(2):163-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2009.00472.x.


Chronic wounds expose the dermal matrix and underlying tissue to a diversity of microbes from the body and surrounding environment. We determined the microbial diversity of 19 chronic wounds using both molecular methods (sequence analysis of rRNA genes) and routine clinical culturing methods using swab samples. We identified 93 phylotypes in 2,653 rRNA clone sequences and found that compared with other environments, the microbial diversity of chronic wounds is relatively well characterized, i.e., 95% of sequences have > or =97% identity with known human commensals. In total, 75% of sequences belonged to four well-known wound-associated phylotypes: Staphylococcus (25%), Corynebacterium (20%), Clostridiales (18%), and Pseudomonas (12%). Approximately 0.5% of sequences (seven phylotypes) belonged to potentially new species. Individual wound samples contained four to 22 phylotypes, but in all wounds only a few (one to three) phylotypes were dominant. In more than half the wound specimens, polymerase chain reaction and culturing methods gave different diversity and dominance information about the microbes present. This exploratory study suggests that combining molecular and culturing methods provides a more complete characterization of the microbial diversity of chronic wounds, and can thereby expand our understanding of how microbiology impacts chronic wound pathology and healing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / methods*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / standards
  • Chronic Disease
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Corynebacterium Infections / microbiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mississippi / epidemiology
  • Montana / epidemiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / standards
  • Pseudomonas Infections / microbiology
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / standards
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Wound Infection / diagnosis
  • Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection / microbiology*


  • RNA, Bacterial