Microbiology of the skin and the role of biofilms in infection

Int Wound J. 2012 Feb;9(1):14-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-481X.2011.00836.x. Epub 2011 Oct 5.


The integrity of human skin is central to the prevention of infection. Acute and chronic wounds can develop when the integrity of skin as a barrier to infection is disrupted. As a multi-functional organ, skin possesses important biochemical and physical properties that influence its microbiology. These properties include a slightly acidic pH, a low moisture content, a high lipid content (which results in increased hydrophobicity) and the presence of antimicrobial peptides. Such factors have a role to play in preventing exogenous microbial colonisation and subsequent infection. In addition, the properties of skin both select for and enhance colonisation and biofilm formation by certain 'beneficial' micro-organisms. These beneficial micro-organisms can provide further protection against colonisation by potential pathogens, a process known as colonisation resistance. The aim of this paper is to summarise the microflora of skin and wounds, highlighting the role of certain micro-organisms and biofilms in associated infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Wound Infection / microbiology*