Significant changes in the skin microbiome mediated by the sport of roller derby

PeerJ. 2013 Mar 12:1:e53. doi: 10.7717/peerj.53. Print 2013.


Diverse bacterial communities live on and in human skin. These complex communities vary by skin location on the body, over time, between individuals, and between geographic regions. Culture-based studies have shown that human to human and human to surface contact mediates the dispersal of pathogens, yet little is currently known about the drivers of bacterial community assembly patterns on human skin. We hypothesized that participation in a sport involving skin to skin contact would result in detectable shifts in skin bacterial community composition. We conducted a study during a flat track roller derby tournament, and found that teammates shared distinct skin microbial communities before and after playing against another team, but that opposing teams' bacterial communities converged during the course of a roller derby bout. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the human skin microbiome shifts in composition during activities involving human to human contact, and that contact sports provide an ideal setting in which to evaluate dispersal of microorganisms between people.

Keywords: Contact sport; Human microbiome; Microbial biogeography; Microbial dispersal; Microbial ecology; Skin microbiology.

Grants and funding

Research reported in this publication was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation under award number 2010-5-22 IEC and the University of Oregon. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.