Background: Diabetic foot infections are a leading cause of lower extremity amputations. Our study examines the microbiota of diabetic skin prior to ulcer development or infection.
Methods: In a case-control study, outpatient males were recruited at a veterans hospital. Subjects were swabbed at 4 cutaneous sites, 1 on the forearm and 3 on the foot. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) with primers and probes specific for bacteria, Staphylococcus species, Staphylococcus aureus, and fungi were performed on all samples. High-throughput 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequencing was performed on samples from the forearm and the plantar aspect of the foot.
Results: qPCR analysis of swab specimens from 30 diabetic subjects and 30 control subjects showed no differences in total numbers of bacteria or fungi at any sampled site. Increased log concentrations of Staphylococcus aureus, quantified by the number of nuc gene copies, were present in diabetic men on the plantar aspect of the foot. High-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing found that, on the foot, the microbiota in controls (n = 24) was dominated by Staphylococcus species, whereas the microbiota in diabetics (n = 23) was more diverse at the genus level. The forearm microbiota had similar diversity in diabetic and control groups.
Conclusions: The feet of diabetic men had decreased populations of Staphylococcus species, increased populations of S. aureus, and increased bacterial diversity, compared with the feet of controls. These ecologic changes may affect the risk for wound infections.