Characterization of Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium clusters in the human axillary region

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 12;8(8):e70538. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070538. eCollection 2013.


The skin microbial community is regarded as essential for human health and well-being, but likewise plays an important role in the formation of body odor in, for instance, the axillae. Few molecular-based research was done on the axillary microbiome. This study typified the axillary microbiome of a group of 53 healthy subjects. A profound view was obtained of the interpersonal, intrapersonal and temporal diversity of the human axillary microbiota. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and next generation sequencing on 16S rRNA gene region were combined and used as extent to each other. Two important clusters were characterized, where Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium species were the abundant species. Females predominantly clustered within the Staphylococcus cluster (87%, n = 17), whereas males clustered more in the Corynebacterium cluster (39%, n = 36). The axillary microbiota was unique to each individual. Left-right asymmetry occurred in about half of the human population. For the first time, an elaborate study was performed on the dynamics of the axillary microbiome. A relatively stable axillary microbiome was noticed, although a few subjects evolved towards another stable community. The deodorant usage had a proportional linear influence on the species diversity of the axillary microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axilla / microbiology*
  • Biodiversity
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Corynebacterium / classification*
  • Corynebacterium / genetics
  • Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota
  • Phylogeny
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus / classification*
  • Staphylococcus / genetics

Grant support

This work was supported through the assistantship of Chris Callewaert by the Flemish Government. Frederiek-Maarten Kerckhof was funded through the geconcerteerde onderzoeksactie (GOA) of Ghent University (BOF09/GOA/005). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.